NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Mike Wolfthal, who served as athletic director at Bishop Ahr for nearly 40 years, has been hired at New Brunswick High School on an interim basis to fill the position left vacant when Craig Lowery was reassigned last month.
Lowery was reassigned to supervisor of physical education, health and wellness for grades K-12 in the wake of the New Brunswick High School football team’s four-game sanction for using an ineligible player.
Wolfthal told TAPinto New Brunswick on Saturday that he took over as interim athletic director on Nov. 25.
Before Wolfthal was hired about two weeks ago, the task of overseeing the athletics department fell to Board of Education's administrator/secretary Richard Jannarone.
Board of Education member Patricia Sadowski announced at the Nov. 19 meeting that a new interim athletic director had been hired, but she did not reveal his identity.
The New Brunswick High School football team was 4-1 and still basking in the afterglow of its exciting 13-7 victory over perennial state powerhouse Piscataway when Greater Middlesex Conference President Jeff DiCocco announced that the Zebras would have to forfeit all four wins for using an ineligible player.
That meant the Chiefs were stripped of the victories over Monroe, Dickinson (Jersey City), Edison and Piscataway.
DicCocco said the player in question transferred to New Brunswick before the start of the academic year without an address change. Under New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) rules, that player should have sat out for the first 30 days of the season.
Monica Rivera, the mother of player Jordan Lebron, said Lowery agreed to apply for a waiver for her son when he transferred from Bishop Ahr in February so he could forgo the 30-day waiting period.
Board of Education attorney George Hendricks, however, applied for a waiver soon after the sanctions were announced. The NJSIAA did not to grant the waiver.
Rivera and other parents of players called for Lowery to be fired at the October Board of Education meeting.
The Zebras fought valiantly for the remainder of their schedule – including a narrow loss to top-ranked Woodbridge - but some key injuries and a few bad breaks resulted in an 0-9 record.
Until a permanent athletic director is hired, Wolfthal promises to bring a vast amount of experience and respect to the position.
He was the athletic director at Bishop Ahr from 1980 until his retirement at the end of June. Not only did he teach social studies and serve as chair of that department, Wolfthal coached football, wrestling and track at the Edison school.
Wolfthal was hired as a teacher back when it was known as St. Thomas Aquinas in 1973. (The school announced in July that it was returning to its original name).
During his career, he served on numerous statewide and countywide committees. For the NJSIAA, he served on the league of conferences, controversies and appeals committees. He was also secretary for the Greater Middlesex Conference and the now defunct Bicentennial Athletic Conference for a total of 17 years.
Since stepping into the interim athletic director role, Wolfthal said that he has found the athletic programs in good shape. Lowery had already created the winter sports schedules for the various teams. Also, there are no coaching openings that need Wolfthal’s immediate attention.
“There are always things that need attention, and the attention right now is on getting the (winter) season started on the right foot,” Wolfthal said. “There are rules that have to be followed. I’m just there to basically oversee the program until the permanent athletic director is hired and make sure things run smoothly.”
During his 4 ½ month retirement, Wolfthal said he was able to “reconnect” with his wife of 43 years, Diane.
“We just spent a lot of time together,” he said. “If you know anything about athletic directing, your time is overrun by school activities. I would work 12 to 15 hours a day on occasions, especially in wintertime. It gave me time to spend time with her, cook for her and just do some things together.”
Two things factored into his decision to take the interim job at New Brunswick High School: The fact it is an interim position and the chance to work with kids again.
He said New Brunswick High School athletes need to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to stay on the gridiron or the court or the wrestling mat. To that end, a tutorial program called Be Smart is in place to provide student-athletes with support.
“I’m going to make sure that program runs to fruition, that our athletes take advantage of that,” Wolfthal said.