Jeff Capone, the boys cross-country and track and field coach at Voorhees, is denying the accusation that he suggested to a runner on the girls cross-country team at Voorhees that they should have a COVID party, which led to his apparent firing.
According to a report by the New Jersey Hills Media Group. Capone is accused of allegedly saying "have yourself a COVID party,'' which he vehemently disputes ever saying.
Capone, who successfully fought to keep his coaching job this time last year, said he was having a conversation with Julia Romero, a member of the Voorhees girls cross-country team, after practice one day.
"The conversation I had with Julia was overheard by another runner on the team and my comments were misinterpreted,'' said Capone.
Capone, who has led the Voorhees boys XC team to two state Group 2 titles (2015 and '16) and five sectionals titles since he took over as coach in 2014, said he was told last month by Voorhees AD Brian Baumann that he can no longer coach at Voorhees.
Baumann wrote in an email that he's not authorized to comment on personnel issues. Emails to multiple members of the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Board of Education were not returned.
In the personnel agenda from the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Board of Education meeting on Nov. 17, it shows David Raupp listed for appointment as boys head winter track coach and Capone listed as the coach being replaced under section 21.1. In the minutes from the meeting, the motion for approval of 21.1 (the personnel agenda) was carried.
"I have no idea if I will be fired or not since I haven't heard anything official from the Board of Education,'' said Capone. "But I know I never said what I'm accused of saying. The whole thing is ridiculous. It is all false and I am fighting these false allegations.''
This isn't the first time Capone has fought for his job.
In 2013, Capone was fired as head girls basketball coach at Delaware Valley before being reinstated. Then, he promptly resigned. And last year, after an outpouring of support from the Voorhees running community, Capone was retained as the boys XC and track and field coach at Voorhees after originally being dismissed.
(You can listen to statements from the public for and against starting at 54:30)
Several current and former runners at Voorhees along with many parents of Voorhees runners expressed their feelings about Capone during a board meeting last Tuesday, Dec.,15. The majority of people who spoke, including Julia Romero, supported and defended Capone, and implored the Board to reverse their decision and reinstate Capone as coach. You can listen to the public comments portion of the meeting here including those in support of Capone and against.
Romero wrote a letter to the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Board of Education. NJ MileSplit obtained a copy.
Dear North Hunterdon-Voorhees School Board Members,
I am writing this email in regard to Coach Jeff Capone. I am a member of the girls cross country team at Voorhees High School and it has recently come to my attention that an accusation has been made against Coach Capone, leading to his potential permanent dismissal from his coaching position at Voorhees High School. I understand that someone in connection to the girls cross country team has filed a complaint against Coach Capone, claiming that he made a comment telling us to have "Covid parties" at practice around a month ago.
I know that this claim is untrue because I was present when this supposed statement was made. I specifically remember the conversation that this accusation is referring to because it was a casual conversation between Coach Capone and I on a Saturday morning at the end of practice at the Columbia Trail.
Coach Capone asked me about my older brother Chris because he used to be his cross country coach and he was wondering how he was doing lately. I told him that Chris had just tested positive for Covid-19 and that he was quarantining, but that his symptoms were pretty mild. Coach Capone responded that he was glad that Chris was feeling okay and that he was healthy. I remember mentioning that Chris had been in contact with someone who attended a party, and that that could have been how he contracted the virus. Then as Coach Capone was leaving practice he mentioned how people used to throw "chicken pox parties" years ago, which caused many to contract the illness, but he did not speak of it as if it was a good idea. I was present from the beginning to the end of the conversation and I have no recollection of Coach Capone saying anything along the lines of telling people that they should have "covid parties", but I believe someone may have misheard the conversation and thought that he said something like that.
I was shocked and upset when learning that because of this false accusation, a decision has already been made to dismiss Jeff Capone of his coaching position. It is also concerning to me that to my knowledge, when this claim was initially reported, there was not an investigation of the supposed incident.
Considering that this supposed statement was made during a conversation initially between myself and Coach Capone, I would have expected to be called in to the school to recall what I remember happening, but this was not the case as I only became aware of this situation today. Furthermore, I do not understand how one claim concerning a supposed statement made by a coach could possibly warrant the decision to relieve him of his position, especially considering that the recollection of the conversation from all witnesses were not taken into account.
In all my time knowing Coach Capone, I have witnessed nothing but the statements and actions of a kind-hearted and genuinely compassionate person and coach who cares deeply about every one of his athletes. He not only expresses concern for the athletes he coaches currently, but to anyone of his past athletes or any of the girls on the cross country team as well. I can recall countless moments at practice or at a meet when Coach Capone has gone out of his way to talk to us girls and give us advice and encouragement even though he is not obligated to. Coach Capone genuinely cares about the kids he coaches not just as athletes but as people, too, and coaching is not just a job for him; it's his passion. I hope that my recollection of the supposed conversation is taken into account, and I ask that the decision to dismiss Coach Jeff Capone of his position be reconsidered so he can continue coaching at Voorhees High School.
Thank you for time and consideration,