Poll: Majority support decision to cancel Sayreville football program
The majority of New Jerseyans think the Sayreville Board of Education took appropriate action in response to allegations of sexual assault and hazing among seven players of the Sayreville War Memorial High School football team.
A Seton Hall Sports Poll released on Thursday reveals that 57 percent of those polled think suspending the varsity football program was the appropriate action to take. Only 25 percent think it was an overreaction. The majority also support the cancellation of the junior varsity program, with 43 percent in favor of it and 33 percent not in favor.
The cancellation of the freshman program, however, was not as widely supported, with 41 percent indicating it was an overreaction and only 35 percent saying it was appropriate.
New Jerseyans also support the school board's decision to suspend the team's coaches, with 53 percent saying it was appropriate and 20 percent saying it wasn't severe enough. In addition, 56 percent think the coaches bear responsibility, even though they claim they weren't present during the incidents.
"That's the kind of thing were you almost expect a little more public support. You know, the coaches claim that they're not in the locker room with the kids and they didn't know what was going on. But, essentially the public is saying you're responsible," said Rick Gentile, poll director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll. "People are saying 'Look this is your program, you are responsible for it. What goes on is really under your responsibility."
According to an Associated Press article, "on Oct. 21, the Sayreville Board of Education voted to suspend Head Coach George Najjar and four assistants with pay. School Board President Kevin Ciak said that the suspensions were in accordance with policy due to the ongoing investigation and that no decisions had been made about the future employment of the coaches, none of whom have been charged with a crime."
When it comes to whether the players, ranging in age from 15 to 17, involved should be tried as adults or juveniles, New Jerseyans are split. Forty-three percent polled think they should face charges as juveniles, while 41 percent think they should be tried as adults.
"Even among gender, the split is almost identical - 42 percent of males thought they should be tried as adults (while) 40 percent of females thought they should be tried as adults," Gentile said.
An overwhelming majority of those polled, 84 percent, think hazing is not exclusive to Sayreville, and that it occurs in schools throughout the state.
Seven members of the Sayreville War Memorial High School team were charged on Oct. 10 with crimes ranging from hazing to aggravated sexual assault over what happened last month. Their names haven't been released because they are under 18, Associated Press reported.
The poll surveyed 749 people over landlines and cellphones was conducted over a three-day period. The poll has a +/- 3.6 percent margin of error.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.