Delsea's Marchese has a lot of support

Sal Marchese was suspended during Delsea's academic probe.
Sal Marchese was suspended during Delsea's academic probe.
Posted: February 09, 2014

One by one, former players and teaching colleagues and concerned citizens made their way through the overflow crowd in the middle-school library and added their voice to the chorus of support for Delsea coach Sal Marchese.

One by one, they spoke of his tireless dedication to his students as well as his character and integrity and honesty and years of selfless service.

Nobody even mentioned his won-lost record.

Or his array of conference and sectional championships.

"He is Delsea," one supporter said of Marchese during the Delsea Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night.

The board did not take further action on Marchese, who has been on administrative leave - basically, suspension with pay - for five weeks pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged academic impropriety.

More than 100 former players, teachers, staff members, and other supporters were at the meeting. They filled the seats in the library and stood shoulder-to-shoulder around the reception desk and spilled out into the hallway.

They spoke from the heart. Former player Kyle Jones, now a member of the Rowan University football program, talked passionately about Marchese's influence on hundreds of Delsea athletes.

Delsea teacher and coach Linda Marchese, Sal's sister, read a poignant letter from Jamine Moton, who left Delsea in 1997 for Clemson University and became a world-class weight thrower.

Rob Hooks, father of a current Delsea senior football player of the same name, told how Marchese has been working during his suspension to try to find a college for his son.

"This is with his life on the line, his job on the line," Hooks said. "What does that tell you about the man?"

It was some powerful stuff.

It also was unintentionally ironic.

And that last part probably isn't lost on Delsea superintendent Piera Gravenor and the members of the board of education.

It probably keeps them awake at night.

Because what came through, loud and clear, during more than an hour of speeches about Marchese was how the man has taught generations of Delsea students about responsibility and accountability.

More than one former player said Marchese taught him how to "be a man."

And more than one of Marchese's supporters also said that if a mistake was made - and nobody outside the board and some members of the administration is aware of the findings of the investigation - that judgment must be rendered within the context of the man's career.

But that's the tricky part for Gravenor and the Delsea board, which likely will be taking action on Marchese's situation during a special session that has been scheduled for Saturday morning.

If there was a misstep with regard to football players and a marking-period assessment test in November, then Gravenor and the board must weigh the gravity of the transgression - again, if there was one - against the massive amount of good that Marchese has done during his time at Delsea.

And "good" in this case has nothing to do with 165 wins and six South Jersey titles and everything to do with guidance and direction and leadership and the example he has set for thousands of youngsters.

But that's also the source of the uncomfortable irony of this sad situation.

For if Marchese has been anything in his career, he has been an uncompromising champion of accountability. He has been a tough, demanding guy who has held himself and his team to the highest standards.

He has fashioned a career that's on a clear path to the South Jersey Football Hall of Fame because as each succeeding generation has entered Delsea (and every other high school) with less inclination to take personal responsibility, he has insisted that's not the way things work in his world and around his football program.

That has been the bedrock of Delsea football.

That has been the foundation of his life.

And that's why more than 100 people crowded into that library and why so many made their way to the front of the room to tell "Sal stories."


panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

www.inquirer.com/

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