Football – Coach Steve Sciarappa: ‘Mater Dei is Not Under Investigation by the NJSIAA’
*Updated 2/12, 9 a.m. with NJSIAA response
Mater Dei Prep football coach Steve Sciarappa has issued a short response to recent accusations about the program stating that the Seraphs are not under any investigation by the NJSIAA for recruiting.
"I am blessed to be part of the Mater Dei Prep/St. Mary Parish community, and serve a school that is fulfilling the mission of the Catholic Church,'' Sciarappa wrote in an e-mailed statement to Shore Sports Network on Wednesday. "Recent accusations regarding recruiting were published stating that Mater Dei Prep acted in violation of NJSIAA policy. Article XIII, Section 10 of the NJSIAA Constitution states: “In cases involving recruitment, jurisdiction over the member school shall lie with the Controversies Committee, and jurisdiction over the student-athlete shall lie with the Eligibility Appeals Committee.
"NJSIAA officials confirm that Mater Dei Prep is not under investigation by the NJSIAA. I want to thank the NJSIAA for their cooperation and support in this matter."
The NJSIAA has issued a response to Sciarappa's statement.
"NJSIAA takes all allegations of recruiting seriously,'' NJSIAA spokesperson Michael Cherenson wrote in an email on Thursday. "The Association was alerted to the allegations against Mater Dei yesterday morning and is currently gathering the facts. Based on that initial examination, we will determine next steps which could involve a more thorough investigation and or a hearing of the controversies committee."
In an article by MyCentralJersey.com's Greg Tufaro on Wednesday, Dunellen head coach and athletic director Dave DeNapoli claimed that a Mater Dei assistant tried to recruit one of his top players with an offer of a scholarship.
That accusation comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed on Feb. 5, which was first reported by the Asbury Park Press, by Brian and Heather Burns, the parents of Mater Dei junior Tyler Burns, that alleges Mater Dei "used funds to recruit football players from out of Monmouth County, to fully scholarship these 'ringers' with their own paid personal coaches, transportation to and from their homes — mostly from Union County, approximately sixty (60) miles round trip.''
Recruiting or offering athletic scholarships is prohibited by NJSIAA member schools. A spokesperson for the NJSIAA told MyCentralJersey.com that a controversies committee hearing could be held regarding the accusations and that it would be addressed with NJSIAA attorney Steve Goodell.
Mater Dei went 8-3 in the fall for its best season since 1999 and won a state playoff game for the second straight year for the first time in program history. The team has been boosted in recent seasons by the addition of multiple transfers from North Jersey schools, including four All-Division selections from this fall. None of those players has been identified specifically as having been recruited.
The controversial remarks about the Seraphs' program came eight days after Father Jeff Kegley, the pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Middletown, announced that the parish's leadership would be closing the school after 50 years in June because of financial difficulties. Two days later, Kegley announced that a two-month period would be granted to try to raise the $1 million necessary to keep the school open. A Save the Seraphs online donation page has since raised $21,000 in seven days, and a coordinated effort led by 1976 graduate Jim Shaw has also been formed to reach the goal.