Berlin High School football coach suspended after recruiting violations

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BERLIN — The Berlin High School football coach, John Capodice, has been suspended after he was found to have violated CIAC rules. The school board announced the suspension just one day after the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Committee (CIAC) sanctioned the team.

Superintendent David Erwin said Capodice is ineligible to participate in the final football game this season and going forward, the team will be coached by assistant coach Rob Levesque.

Wednesday afternoon’s report was aided by an independent investigation into whether the program illegally recruited and provided housing for players living outside the town of Berlin.

The CIAC says Berlin’s head football coach, John Capodice, is solely responsible for violating conference rules and no other staff members are under investigation at this time.

The sanctions, which were approved by the board and accepted by the Berlin School District, include:

  • Forfeiture of all football victories this season in which any ineligible player participated.
  • Prohibition from CIAC Championship competition for the football program for the 2015 season.
  • Probation for one year for the football program (CIAC probation is defined as a period of trial during which the school is monitored to determine compliance with requirements of CIAC regulations.
  • The school is fined $4,000 ($1,000 for each ineligible player).
  • The ineligible athletes will be permanently ineligible to participate in athletic competition if they remain at Berlin high school.
  • If the ineligible students transfer to another CIAC member school they will be ineligible to participate in athletic competition for the remainder of the 2015-16 school year and 50 percent of the 2016 fall season.

According to a CIAC investigation, Capodice actively recruited players who weren’t Berlin residents from nearby towns such as New Britain solely to play on the football team.

Capodice also allegedly promised housing for one family, and even a college scholarship for another student, according to the multiple sworn statements provided to investigators.

The hiring of private investigators, promises of scholarships and threats against players and families all came to light during the CIAC investigation into the recruiting violations.

Berlin is still scheduled to play New Britain this Friday.

On Wednesday morning, Principal Francis T. Kennedy sent the following email to parents:

In light of the sensational media coverage related to our football program over the last several weeks, I want to let you know that the upcoming New Britain-Berlin football game on Friday, November 20th will be held as scheduled at 7:00 p.m. at Willow Brook Park in New Britain. The administrations and police departments of Berlin and New Britain have planned together, and I have been assured that there will be ample police and security presence to keep order at the game.

Please know that, despite an unsubstantiated comment quoted in a November 16, 2015 online article, there have been no reports of harassment or threats made to or among either team.

Let us end this year’s season with the dignity and decorum that our learning communities – and the children within it – deserve.