State to investigate claims Sacred Heart coach paid part of player’s tuition

(Published in The Press of Atlantic City on Wednesday, May 26)

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association plans to investigate claims that a Sacred Heart High School coach paid tuition for one of its baseball players.

Bob Baly, assistant director of the NJSIAA, said Tuesday that his agency has begun an an investigation based on a Press of Atlantic City report that the Vineland private school’s baseball coach, John Triantos, paid some tuition for former player Andrew Biggs. The association’s rules forbid coaches from paying for students’ tuition “to induce a student to attend a school for athletic reasons.”

“We will examine this and remind everyone that we have an obligation to grant due process,” Baly said.

If the NJSIAA finds intentional wrongdoing, the school’s baseball program could face sanctions, Baly said. The team has won several tournaments and conference championships during Triantos’ five-year tenure.

The Lions (23-5) defeated Moorestown Friends 7-1 on Tuesday in a South Jersey Non-Public B quarterfinal game.

“They could be stripped of their championships,” Baly said. “They could be placed on probation.”

Biggs, 16, and his family say Triantos paid some of his tuition and helped secure financial aid for Biggs. Triantos first denied the claims but admitted they were true after a reporter from The Press of Atlantic City showed Sacred Heart Athletic Director Keith Jones a tuition bill showing Triantos’ payment of $250 on Sept. 29, 2009.

Triantos said via e-mail last week that he helped Biggs for personal reasons, not athletic ones, citing longstanding close ties with Biggs, whom he knew as a Little Leaguer. As a freshman pitcher at Sacred Heart in 2009, Biggs was 4-0 with a 0.61 ERA, striking out 30 batters in 23 innings.

Jones and Triantos did not return phone calls Tuesday.

Biggs sat out all but one game of the 2010 baseball season because Sacred Heart officials initially refused to release his transcripts to his new school, Millville High School, leaving him ineligible. School policy dictates transcripts are not released until tuition is fully paid. Superior Court Judge Gary Wodlinger ordered Sacred Heart on April 29 to immediately release the transcripts to Millville, but Millville didn’t receive the transcripts until Monday, said Biggs’ mother, Jennifer.

The NJSIAA is separately investigating a May 6 complaint by Millville resident Rose Correa that Sacred Heart coaches ran organized fall and winter baseball practices in violation of NJSIAA rules. Her son, Sergio Correa Jr., says he took part in those practices. After being contacted by The Press, former Sacred Heart assistant coach Jonathan Dijamco confirmed that the school did hold winter practices.

Jones said last week that Correa’s claims were unfounded and the school sent documentation to the NJSIAA to prove it, though he declined to specify what the documentation was.