When Greg Lister applied to enroll at Holy Spirit, in Absecon, in July, he was turned down by the school because of where he lived. His family had moved
from Hamilton Township (Atlantic County), an Oakcrest sending district, to Salem County. Living in Salem County, Lister normally would attend either Sacred Heart, which does not have a football team, or Salem High.
After Lister wrote two letters to the Catholic Diocese, explaining his history in football and the absence of the sport at Sacred Heart, the diocese said he could enroll at Holy Spirit.
Oakcrest challenged his eligibility on two grounds: the NJSIAA's residency rule and an athletic-advantage rule.
In a letter to the state association earlier this month, Oakcrest principal Johnson Harmon contended that Lister had transferred to gain an athletic advantage, largely because his father was unhappy with Oakcrest's coaches, and that living in Deerfield, he was not eligible to attend Holy Spirit.
"I'm upset that this even happened," said Ed Byrnes, the football coach and athletic director at Holy Spirit. "If the boy had done something wrong and was leaving to escape punishment, that would be different."
"I've never refused to sign a transfer waiver for anyone," Byrnes added. ''Holy Spirit is not for everybody, and neither is any other school. If a kid can be more comfortable somewhere else, so be it.
"Bobby Martin, possibly the best basketball player in this area the last 10 years, transferred out of here. So did Brandon Cole, one of the best baseball players in our area. They both went to Atlantic City and are now playing college ball on full scholarships.
"Three of Atlantic City's best football players this year transferred from Holy Spirit. And (there are) a few wrestlers every year who should come here but are allowed to go elsewhere," Byrnes said. Holy Spirit has no wrestling program.
Jim Talarico, athletic director at Oakcrest, declined to comment last night, and Harmon was unavailable for comment.
Steve Lister said he was not prepared to accept the decision. "I'll be in my lawyer's office (this) morning," he said. "There are a lot of things involved here, and we're going to have our day in court."
In any event, Greg Lister apparently will be on the sidelines for Holy Spirit's opener on Saturday. The opponent is Oakcrest.