It was definitely sad news when the officials from the Hudson County Schools of Technology announced last week that the athletic programs at High Tech in North Bergen and County Prep in Jersey City were ceasing operations due to financial difficulties.
Officials cited a $4.7 million budget deficit created by Gov. Chris Christie’s massive cutbacks in educational costs statewide.
But make no bones about it. The athletic programs were given the death knell by the local leaders, the mayors of the municipalities who were tired of the county schools pilfering the top student/athletes from the local districts and putting them on the rosters at High Tech and County Prep.
The local towns and cities were helping to foot the bill for the athletic programs to the tune of a collective $350,000 for each school. The elected officials then realized there was a duplication of services, spending money to field athletic programs in their own districts and also the county schools.
Apparently, one mayor found out about a prospective athlete ending up at one of the county schools who allegedly didn’t go through the proper channels – like filling out the proper applications or earning the proper acceptances through the necessary minimum grade requirements. The application process was possibly circumvented by an active coach at one of the county schools. That was the last straw.
So the disgruntled parents of student/athletes currently enrolled at County Prep and High Tech can stop their finger-pointing and blaming the elected officials. The real culprits here are the overzealous coaches at the schools who were going after these prospective student/athletes at all costs.
The sad part about the last straw is this. The guy who allegedly circumvented the rules to get this one particular athlete into one of the Schools of Technology’s athletic programs doesn’t even coach the sport the kid plays.
Apparently now there are Hudson County Board of Education officials looking for this coach’s head on a platter. Well guess what. It’s too late now. The alleged deed has already been done and the damage is athletically fatal.
So don’t go and blame the elected officials so quickly. If this overzealous person didn’t go overboard with his alleged improper recruitment of this one kid – and that’s what it was, recruitment – then none of these so-called cutbacks would have ever come to light…
When Joel Rivera was growing up in his native Hoboken, he always dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. It was a dream that was fulfilled in 2003, when Rivera was drafted out of Hoboken High School by the Milwaukee Brewers. Rivera signed a contract with the Brewers and everyone believed that he was headed to a life as a pro outfielder, eventually destined for the major leagues.
However, Rivera’s stay in pro baseball didn’t last and he was eventually granted his release by the Brewers after two seasons.
Rivera came home to Hoboken and he enrolled at William Paterson University, where he took up another sport – football. Rivera blossomed as a wide receiver with the Pioneers, eventually becoming the school’s all-time leading receiver. He set records for receptions (159), yards (2,209), and touchdowns (23) for a career, as well as single season marks for catches and yards in 2008. Rivera was a two-time All-NJAC honoree, having caught 51 passes for 751 yards and nine touchdowns in 2009.
Last week, Rivera’s life came full circle as he received an invitation to try out with the New York Jets.
“It’s a great feeling,” Rivera said in a phone interview. “I never expected to be in this situation, but once I got into football, I knew that it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be able to take my game a little further, take it as far as I could go. When I first got to William Paterson, I never knew what I might become as a football player. But since I had a chance to do some things, I wanted the chance.”
Rivera said that he had offers from both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jets, but chose the Jets.
“I felt I had the right chemistry with the Jets,” said Rivera, who earned invitations to play in two NCAA Division III national all-star games last fall. “I met with them a lot and I had a personal workout with them April 9. I think that workout with them pushed me towards them.”
Rivera said that he knew the tryout came with no guarantees.
In fact, the opportunity was rescinded late Wednesday afternoon, when the Jets contacted Rivera’s agent Wes Bridges and told Bridges that they were not inviting Rivera to the rookie minicamp after all.
“It was never a hard invite,” Bridges explained. “The Jets liked Joel and thought he had ability. They had a pecking order to fill their need and once they have players to fill that need, they shut down the invites. We all agree that he has the ability to take it to the next level, but it’s all a numbers game. The process is tough, but that’s why they call it the professional level.”
Bridges said that he was working on other possibilities for his client.
“Joel and I had conversations and he always knew that there was a possibility of this happening,” Bridges said. “I told him to stay positive and upbeat. It was always going to be an uphill battle for a receiver coming out of William Paterson. But good things are still going to happen for Joel.”
Rivera pretty much accepted his fate.
“I’m not too upset,” Rivera said. “It’s not the end of the world right now. I’m just waiting for another opportunity. Things happen in professional sports. I understand that.”…
Speaking of chances, former St. Peter’s Prep standout running back Rashawn Jackson was not taken in last weekend’s NFL Draft, but it doesn’t mean he won’t get a chance to eventually play in the NFL. The former University of Virginia fullback has signed a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers, earning a ticket to attend the Panthers’ training camp…
Jersey City’s Willie Banks is still involved in professional baseball at the age of 41, earning another year with the local pro team, the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.
While the former St. Anthony star who spent the better part of 10 years in the major leagues with seven different clubs is still pitching, he’s also taking the first step toward the rest of his baseball career as the team’s acting pitching coach.
“I can’t fight the fact that I’m a baseball player first and foremost,” said Banks, who pitched one scoreless inning for the Bears in relief thus far. “It’s the only thing I know. I’ve come to the realization that I have to stick it out and throw for as long as I can. But the coaching is something I’ve done for a long time, learning from people like [Mike] Hogan and [Ed “Faa”] Ford. They breathed it into me and coaching is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Added Banks, “I still feel like I’m a pitcher first and a pitching coach second. This is definitely a challenge for me. Some days, I’m running ragged, going from the bullpen to the mound. I’ve been playing for so long that I just can’t turn it off yet. But this is an opportunity that can open some doors for me. I love the game and I’m willing to help anyone out. As long as I can still pitch, I don’t see any reason to stop it now.”…
Condolences to the family of respected local track and field coach Major Brown, who passed away last week. Brown was a dedicated and devoted track and field coach, both on the high school level at Snyder and Lincoln and on the youth level with his Team Excel programs. He was one of a kind and people like Major Brown are not easily replaced…
Hudson Reporter H.S. Baseball Top Five: 1. North Bergen (10-3). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (9-5). 3. Union City (9-6). 4. High Tech (10-2). 5. Memorial (7-5).
Hudson Reporter H.S. Softball Top Five: 1. North Bergen (9-4). 2. High Tech (8-3). 3. Hoboken (9-2). 4. County Prep (11-3). 5. St. Dominic Academy (8-4)….– Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.