Joe Theismann understands the passion for football in communities in New Jersey.
Before he starred for Notre Dame and the Washington Redskins, Theismann was a three-sport star for Sayreville nearby rival South River High, where as quarterback he led the football team to an undefeated season and a state title in 1966.
So he has watched with interest the ongoing investigation into the hazing and sexual assault scandal involving the football program that continues to rock the Sayreville community.
“When I was growing up in that area in central Jersey, football was everything,” Theismann told USA TODAY High School Sports on Monday.
“If the allegations are true, the tragedy is that a great training ground for young men will be removed from Sayreville High School.”
Seven upperclassmen were charged Friday. The complaints filed by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office charge that on various dates between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29 one or more of the players either held the victims against their will, while others improperly touched the victims in a sexual manner. It also is charged that in one instance, one of the victims was kicked during an attack.
In light of the investigation, the Sayreville administration canceled the remainder of the football season and superintendent Dr. Richard Labbe said the program could be suspended for more than this season.
“It is unfortunate that this situation has occurred and has precipitated the decisions that are made,” Theismann said. “Hopefully this community will come out stronger with a renewed commitment to values for the young men and women in athletics.”