NJSIAA may offer corrective plan to Timber Creek for residency violations

ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. - The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association is leaning toward developing a "Corrective Action Plan" with the Black Horse Pike school district in reponse to residency issues related to the Timber Creek football program, NJSIAA associate director Larry White said Wednesday.

White said he still was evaluating "a copious amount" of material that was forwarded to the NJSIAA by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, which completed a three-month investigation into the Timber Creek program in early September.

At the time, the CCPO announced that no criminal charges would be filed against anyone associated with the Timber Creek program but that "residency descrepancies" had been discovered and would be sent to the NJSIAA.

After the NJSIAA's monthly executive committee meeting, White said he was still working through some of the files that the CCPO compiled over the course of its investigation.

"There must be 20 files and about 16 of them are audio files - 10, 15, 20 minutes long each," White said. "It takes time to go through all that and then to determine if there were any violations of our rules."

White said that no decision had been made but indicated that the "best course of action" might be to work with the school district to develop administrative safeguards to insure that residency issues are properly handled.

"That might be the way to go," White said. "We haven't decided yet. We're not there yet. But it might be better to handle this administratively as opposed to using the [NJSIAA's] Controversies Committee and calling them in for a hearing."

NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said Wednesday the organization has worked with school districts to develop "several" corrective action plans in recent years.

Timko said that usually has happened when the school districts have cooperated fully with the NJSIAA. White said that is the case with the Black Horse Pike district.

Black Horse Pike superintendent Brian Repici did not return a telephone call on Wednesday.

Dan Long, the attorney for the district, said earlier this month that the school district "is cooperating completely with the NJSIAA just as we cooperated completely with the Camden County Prosecutor's Office."

White said he and other NJSIAA officials were still determinating if the "residency descrepencies" uncovered by the CCPO represent violations of NJSIAA rules and what, if any, sanctions might be imposed.

"We have to see if there's anything involved with this year's team and if so, we need to expedite that," White said. "And we have to look to see if there was anything in the past that we might have to address retroactively."

Asked specifically if Timber Creek could be stripped of its 2015 South Jersey Group 4 championship, White indicated that the NJSIAA has taken that action in the past with teams found to have used ineligible players.

But White stressed that no determination had been made about the ineligibility of any players on the Chargers' team in 2015.

White said that residency issues at Timber Creek might have been the result of "oversight" in a large district with three high schools.

Timber Creek is one of the top public school football programs in the state, with three sectional championships since 2011. This season, the Chargers are 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in South Jersey in the Inquirer Top 25.

Motion denied

Paul VI athletic director Tony Mitchell, a member of the executive committee, made a motion at the end of Wednesday's meeting to eliminate the organization's controversial new power-point system for some non-public schools.

Under the new system, football teams are receiving either twice or one-and-a-half times the power points for playing any of nine powerful North Jersey non-public programs, win or lose. That includes when those nine teams play each other.

"This system isn't working the way we thought," Mitchell said, indicating that DePaul Catholic is far ahead in power points in Non-Public 3 despite a 2-4 record.

In another example, Seton Hall Prep is fifth in power points in Non-Public 4 despite a 1-5 record.

The situation greatly affects teams such as St. Augustine (6-0) and Camden Catholic (5-0), which are unlikely to earn a high-enough seed to host a playoff game even if they compile an undefeated record before the cutoff date.

The executive commitee voted 23-2 against Mitchell's motion, with three absentions.

"It's new. It's change, and it needs to run its course and then be evaluated," said Timko, indicating the system was a one-year pilot program. "To change in mid-stream, that's never a good idea."

Wrestling changes

As expected, the executive committee approved on second reading major changes to the district/region alignments in wrestling as well as the team tournament.

The new district and region alignments will go into effect in February. Also, an additional 112 wrestlers would be invited to the state finals in Atlantic City in March as the fourth-place finisher in each region now will qualify.

Hall of Fame

Former Camden High basketball stars Ron "Itchy" Smith (Class of 1960) and Milt Wagner (1981) will be inducted into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame in December.