HAMMONTON — St. Joseph High School suspended football coach Paul Sacco — the winningest coach in South Jersey history — for two games Wednesday after a video surfaced of St. Joe players using racial slurs at his house.
Several St. Joe players were also suspended.
Sacco could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The video was shot at Sacco’s Hammonton home. Sacco will not be allowed to host future team gatherings in private residences.
“Coach Paul Sacco should have been supervising the students at the time of the incident,” St. Joe President and Principal the Rev. Allain Caparas said in a statement.
The school did not specify how many players were suspended or their names. It also did not detail what the suspensions entailed.
“Those consequences will be proportionate to each student’s involvement,” Caparas said, “and will include suspensions from school, suspensions from games, community service and disciplinary probation for the remainder of the school year.”
St. Joe is one of the state’s premier football programs. The Wildcats have won 19 state titles since the state Non-Public playoffs began in 1993. St. Joe (5-1) is again one of the state’s best this season. Sacco, who is in his 37th season, is South Jersey’s winningest coach with 322 career victories.
The Wildcats hosts West Deptford on Saturday and then play at Timber Creek on Oct. 19.
The video was emailed to several Haddonfield and St. Joe administrators and media members Wednesday morning.
Caparas said he reached out to the principal of Haddonfield High School and apologized for the incident.
Larry White, executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that he had seen the video.
He said he forwarded it to all NJSIAA assistant directors and the organization’s attorney. The NJSIAA also forwarded it to the state Attorney General’s Office’s Civil Rights Division, an action required by the NJSIAA sportsmanship policy, which states that “trash talking” and other actions of ridicule will not be tolerated.
“It’s tremendously disappointing,” White said.
The NJSIAA has made it a policy not to tolerate any racial bias or slurs. But there have been a few high-profile racial incidents involving high school sports teams over the past few months.
“We’ve been preaching for how many years now about kids and putting stuff on social media,” White said. “But are schools doing anything about it? Are the coaches telling (athletes) about it? It doesn’t appear (so).”
The video was taken the night before St. Joe hosted Haddonfield on Sept. 29.
A black St. Joe player was seen on the video using the N-word. Another was heard using the phrase “white boy a” in reference to the Haddonfield quarterback.
Several St. Joe players of varying races could be seen hooting, hollering and cursing in the background.
The players were at Sacco’s Hammonton home. It is a longtime St. Joe tradition for the Wildcats to spend part of their Friday nights in Sacco’s basement, which is filled with St. Joe football memorabilia.
Sacco scouts future opponents with his assistant coaches Friday. His wife, Peggy, stays home with the players.
“This event is a reminder to all of our students, our staff and our school families that actions like this will not be tolerated,” Caparas said. “The language and tone contained in this video is completely contrary to the academics and spiritual tenets of our school and faith.”