Chris Beagan, a former Sayreville High School football captain, is returning to his alma mater as the successor to head gridiron coach George Najjar, whose program generated national headlines with a sexual assault and hazing scandal.
The Board of Education approved Beagan, one of 45 applicants for Najjar’s vacated post, as its new head football coach on Tuesday night, effective immediately.
Beagan was also hired to begin teaching health and physical education at the high school starting Sept. 1 at a salary of $82,053.
In addition to his $12,051 coaching stipend, Beagan will receive $5,573 to serve as the high school’s strength and conditioning coach, also effective immediately.
“I believe it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, which is the reason I considered it,” Beagan said of coaching at one of the state’s most successful public school programs. “When the job opened up, it was a dream job and that’s why I’m back here. It drew me back.”
Beagan said he will immediately commence an “exhaustive search” to fill his coaching staff, and that he plans to meet with his new players as soon as possible.
“I don’t like to take things and change the schedule too much,” he said. “I know generally we would meet with our parents in May. Given the situation with the new hire, I’d want to get in front of them as soon as possible to answer any questions they may have and certainly introduce myself to the new players.”
A 1990 Sayreville graduate, Beagan previously taught health and physical education at the high school, where he also served as a defensive coordinator in football under Najjar and as a head coach in wrestling.
Sayreville parted ways last month with Najjar, a member of the New Jersey Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame who led the Bombers to 20 consecutive NJSIAA playoff berths and who remains popular among players and students at the high school.
Beagan spent the past 11 years turning around the football program at Monroe, where he won a Greater Middlesex Conference White Division championship as a rookie head coach in 2008 and helped the school claim its first sectional title the following season. He was an assistant at Monroe from 2004-07.
The decision to leave Monroe, where he compiled a 39-33 record as a head football coach and is a health and physical education teacher, was difficult for Beagan, who lives in Monroe with his wife and their two children.
“It was a very difficult decision, in part, because of the opportunity they provided me,” Beagan said. “I owe a great deal to the administration and the people of Monroe. They’ve treated me and my family wonderfully.”
Former Sayreville head football coach Sal Mistretta, who was Beagan’s high school mentor, said he believed Beagan would be a great hire to help the school community move forward in the scandal’s aftermath.
”He’s a Sayreville kid,” Mistretta said. “He understands the background, and the fact that he has coached in that program under the previous coach (Najjar), I think that’s a definite plus. Regardless of what went on, there was a lot of support for the previous coach, and I think that having someone that was a part of that and embraced that can only be a positive for the transition to the new direction that they want to go.”
The school district was also expected to adopt on Tuesday night policy and procedure revisions regarding supervision to which Beagan and all coaches must adhere in the wake of the football scandal. Those coaches would also be required to complete training modules on the prevention of harassment, intimidation, bullying and hazing and to share that information with players and their parents at team meetings.
Seven Sayreville players were charged in connection with the hazing and sexual assault of four teammates inside the high school football locker room over a 10-day period last September.
MyCentralJersey.com football analyst Marcus Borden, a member of the NJSIAA and New Jersey Football Coaches Association Halls of Fame, said Beagan’s hiring would be a “coup for the school district and the community.”
“One of the unique opportunities that a school district has is the ability to hire someone that has come through their system,” Borden said. “They understand the community probably better than anybody else because they’ve been a part of it.”
Borden said he believed Sayreville football players and their parents would immediately be impressed with Beagan’s organizational skills, meticulous attention to detail, demeanor, personality and coaching ability.
“Chris was an outstanding defensive coordinator while at Sayreville coaching under George,” said Borden, who coached at East Brunswick from 1983 to 2012. “They had one of the toughest defenses we faced. They were well prepared. That transitioned over into his being the head football coach at Monroe. They were always well-skilled and well-drilled.”
The decision to possibly leave Monroe, where he compiled a 39-33 record as a head football coach and is a health and physical education teacher, was difficult for Beagan, according to a person with knowledge of his situation. Beagan lives in Monroe with his wife and their two children.
Mistretta said Beagan, a star linebacker in high school, led by example as a player and has developed into an excellent role model for student-athletes.
“As a captain, the kids respected him,” Mistretta recalled. “He was a very good player in a time that we were just beginning to build a program, so it was that transition time from being everyone’s Homecoming Game to starting to be a team that people were getting concerned with. The kids respected him. He led, not with a lot of rah-rah, but (through) hard work.”
Najjar, who earns just under $86,000 annually according to public records, had been suspended with pay as a tenured teacher since Oct. 16, the day school officials began an internal investigation into his football program.
Four assistants also were suspended with pay from their tenured teaching positions on Oct. 16, but all were reinstated on Nov. 18. Najjar was reinstated last week upon being reassigned to the elementary school.
Sayreville essentially fired Najjar as the high school’s head football coach on Feb. 5, posting that position on the district’s website with an application deadline of Feb. 19.
Sayreville, which had its string of 20 consecutive NJSIAA playoff appearances snapped last season after the Board of Education canceled the remainder of the year in late September amid allegations of locker-room misconduct, is widely regarded as one of the state’s premier public school programs.
Najjar repeatedly has denied interview requests since the scandal involving his program came to light.