By JOHN T. WARD
Ousted Rumson-Fair Haven football coach Bryan Batchler has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing for what his attorney said were allegations of an inappropriate relationship with student.
“The evidence was insufficient to support criminal charges,”acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said in a prepared statement reported by the Asbury Park Press Wednesday. “However, we referred the matter to the New Jersey Department of Education Investigations Unit for any administrative investigation or other action within their jurisdiction to conduct.”
“Essentially, Coach Batchler was falsely accused of criminal conduct and the prosecutor’s office didn’t even find that there was probable cause to believe that any criminal conduct was committed,” Batchler’s attorney, Mitch Ansell, said in a statement.
From the Ansell statement:
The Rumson Fair Haven High School Football team, coached by Bryan Batchler won the State Championship on December 5, 2015. Thereafter, on December 14, 2015, Coach Batchler was placed on Administrative Leave with pay by the Superintendant of the Rumson Fair Haven High School. At that time, we learned that the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office had initiated an investigation of Coach Batchler and I was retained to represent him. Coach Batchler and I have been assisting the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and I have been in direct contact with them ever since that date. On February 16, 2016, I received a letter from Thomas Fichter, Special Deputy Attorney General, Acting Assistant Prosecutor, Director of Special Victims Bureau that as a result of their very thorough investigation there would be no criminal charges filed against Coach Batchler.
Unfortunately, the Superintendant did not wait for the outcome of this investigation and advised Coach Batchler that he would not be rehired as the football coach on December 23, 2015.
Ansell confirmed to Shore Sports Zone that the allegations had to do with “an inappropriate relationship with a student.” That was the first official confirmation on any level of the nature of the allegations, which were the subject of widespread rumor and speculation.
On Tuesday, the school’s board named longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Schulte to replace Batchler, who was put on administrative leave from his teaching and coaching jobs nine days after he led the Bulldogs to their third consecutive state sectional title with a win over Red Bank Regional.
Superintendent Pete Righi declined at the time to say what prompted the suspension or provide any details about the situation, citing the confidentiality of a personnel matter. Righi has remained mum on the matter.
On Tuesday, the school board also replaced Batchler as the assistant spring coach for the the boys’ tennis team, Righi confirmed. Batchler, 39, taught at R-FH for seven years, and remains listed on the school’s website as an instructor in algebra and advanced-placement statistics.
He served as an assistant football coach for eight years before succeeding Shane Fallon as head coach in February, 2013, and led his teams to NJSIAA sectional championships in each of his three years at the helm.