The NJSIAA has handed down a significant penalty to Mater Dei Prep stemming from the football team’s use of ineligible players earlier this season.

Mater Dei Prep announced in a press release Friday that two coaches have been suspended from coaching in games for the rest of the season as part of a joint corrective action plan by the school and the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Neither Mater Dei or the NJSIAA disclosed the identity of the two coaches, but sources close to the situation have told Shore Sports Network the suspended coaches are head coach Dino Mangiero and offensive coordinator Lance Bennett, the latter of whom is also the school’s athletic director.

Both Mangiero and Bennett will be allowed to coach practices but will not be allowed on site for any games the rest of the season, including NJSIAA playoff games. Mater Dei Prep is currently 5-0 and ranked No. 4 in the SSN Top 10. The Seraphs are the defending Non-Public Group II champions and are on a 17-game winning streak.

Mater Dei Prep head coach Dino Mangiero. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
Mater Dei Prep head coach Dino Mangiero. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

Mater Dei and NJSIAA officials met Friday and agreed on a plan to “address perceived deficiencies in Mater Dei Prep’s compliance and to assure against any further infractions”.

Mater Dei had six players transfer into the school prior to the season without a bonafide change of address, which, by NJSIAA rules, requires the players to not participate in games for the first 30 days of the regular season. Mater Dei Prep played a nonconference game against Canada Prep on Sept. 30 and used those players in the game, which was not at least 30 days from the Seraphs season-start date of Sept. 9. The game with the school from Ontario, Canada was originally scheduled as a regular season game but was changed to a scrimmage. Mater Dei was under the impression its transfers could play in the game, but NJSIAA rules allow transfers to participate in preseason scrimmage, not in-season scrimmages.

“One of the infractions was the result of the misapplication of the NJSIAA regulation relative to the use of some transfer students in an in-season football scrimmage held on September 30, 2017,” the release stated.

Mater Dei was summoned to NJSIAA headquarters in Robbinsville for a hearing on Oct. 19, where the school “became aware that it had neglected to assure two of its football coaches completion of one of the on-line portions of the NJSIAA certification process.”

The suspensions begin this Saturday when Mater Dei Prep hosts Delbarton.

“Mater Dei Prep regrets these errors and will continue to work closely with the NJSIAA to assure against future infractions,” Randy MacDonald, Mater Dei Prep Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said in the release. “We respect and regard as very serious the rules and regulations of the NJSIAA. We know that we must adhere to all the rules involving inter-scholastic activities for the safety of student-athletes and fairness to all in applying the rules of competition.

“We were very disappointed to learn that Mater Dei Prep had to be summoned before the NJSIAA for an infraction of those rules.  We understand how these processes broke down and that the school must establish a clear path forward for ensuring compliance.  We teach our students to respect the rules and to accept responsibility when errors occur.  We can do no less”

Mater Dei has also been placed on probation for two years and fined $500.

Financial instability nearly forced Mater Dei to close after the 2014-2015 school year before $1.5 million was raised to keep the school open.

Mater Dei made a major coaching splash ahead of the 2016 season when it hired Mangiero, the former head coach at Brooklyn powerhouse Poly Prep who was a standout defensive lineman at Rutgers and played in the NFL. Several transfers came to Mater Dei shortly after, including now-senior quarterback George Pearson, who played his first two years at Matawan and led the Huskies to a state title as a freshman.

An also-ran program for most of its existence, Mater Dei went 12-0 and captured the NJSIAA Non-Public Group II title last season for the first time in program history.


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