Glen Rock decides against joining the Big North

GRHS would have been the smallest school in the new league

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The Glen Rock hockey team poses after winning the State Public B championship on March 6. The team competes in the Big North as an associate member, and the league is threatening to expel them unless Glen Rock becomes a full member of the league and moves all its teams there.

Glen Rock High School will not be joining the Big North athletic conference and will instead remain in its current league, the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference, Schools superintendent Paula Valenti announced at Monday’s Board of Ed meeting.

“That is my recommendation,” Valenti said. “I’d like to put this matter to rest, and so moving forward… our response to the Big North is that Glen Rock will remain in the (NJIC) conference as is.”

GRHS athletic director Frank Violante told the board at the meeting that the Big North, which is made up of generally large schools that include parochial school athletic powers Don Bosco, Bergen Catholic and Immaculate Heart Academy, as well as large public schools like Ridgewood, Hackensack and Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley, had approached Glen Rock and notified the school that the Panthers’ hockey team, which competes in the Big North and which earlier this month won the state hockey championship, would no longer be allowed to compete in the league unless Glen Rock joined as a full member, with all its teams competing in the league. If Glen Rock were to join the league, it would be the smallest school in the league, with a current enrollment of 721, more than 100 fewer students than the next smallest team, according to GRHS principal John Arlotta.

Violante said he sent emails to all his coaches in January about the Big North and initially, some were in favor of leaving the NJIC, a small-schools league that features schools like Hawthorne, Garfield and Saddle Brook, to join the Big North. However, over time, several of those coaches changed their minds and decided moving to the Big North would not be such a good idea.

“We think we can compete in the Big North, there’s no doubt about it,” Violante said. “However, there are some sports that when we go into the Big North would have a problem. Football is one of them, there’s no doubt about it.”

Arlotta said the decision to not join the Big North was not an easy one, because if the hockey team is expelled by the league it would be hard on that team. The NJIC does not offer hockey.

“By us not doing anything, we could hurt ice hockey,” Arlotta said. “We certainly don’t want to do that.”

“It’s not an easy decision,” he continued. “We’d like to say yes, but at the same point, I think the concern is that this isn’t the right time to do this.

“We’d love to be able to delay this a little bit and see if the Big North would work with us and work towards it, but if you had ask us right now… we think our recommendation would be that staying (in the NJIC) is the right thing right now, and maybe working towards it in the future.”

Violante said joining the Big North would be a two-year commitment. It would have been set to begin in 2018-19 and run through the 2019-20 school year. So, his understanding is that the hockey team will be able to compete in the league next season, and will need a new league to play in for 2018-19.

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