To borrow a modified line from Saturday Night Line’s 1975 season, North Bergen is still not the 2011 New Jersey state champion.
Just like Spanish Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s death, North Bergen’s quest to reclaim the 2011 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1 Group 4 state title is a story that has run for years. It may have finally been dealt a near-death blow on Friday, when a New Jersey state appellate panel denied North Bergen’s attempt to regain the 2011 state championship via legal recourse, instead saying that the decision to strip the Bruins of their title was warranted because of the school’s illegal recruiting of two players.
As reported by NJ.com, here is how the state appeals panel justified keeping the Section 1 Group 4 title vacant:
“Montclair’s football team was cheated of the opportunity to play a fair game to determine which team truly deserved to be crowned champions in 2011”
Critical to the success of the appeal was Montclair’s own role in the case. An initial NJSIAA ruling about the use of illegally recruited athletes placed North Bergen on a two-year probation but allowed the Bruins to retain their state crown. Montclair didn’t think that was fair, so it filed an appeal, which led the NJSIAA executive committee to strip the title from North Bergen and leave it vacant.
Why wasn’t Montclair awarded the state crown? In part because it never asked to be considered for a state title; it just didn’t think that North Bergen deserved one, either.
North Bergen does still have one possible rout to regaining the state title, though it seems more of a Hail Mary than ever: the attorney representing the school, Patrick Jennings, told NJ.com that he planned to appeal the recent appellate court ruling to the supreme court.