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Investigator: Racial Bias Played No Role in Dismissal of Former Boys Basketball Coach

Joe McLoughlin (Patch File Photo)
Joe McLoughlin (Patch File Photo)
Collingswood Superintendent of Schools Scott Oswald’s decision not to reappoint boys basketball coach Joseph McLoughlin after the 2011-12 season was not racially motivated and was not influenced by any outside forces, an investigator assigned to the case has ruled.

McLaughlin claims that Oswald was influenced by Athletic Director Ronald Hamrick and former Athletic Director Edward Hill, who he claims had a racially-motivated vendetta against him.

However, Edward Borden Jr., of Earp Cohn P.C. decided that while there was a strained relationship between McLoughlin and Hill and Hamrick, neither Hill or Hamrick influenced Oswald’s decision, nor was the decision racially motivated.

He made the determination in a report dated June 27, 2013, and released to Patch Tuesday night.

The school district initially filed a lawsuit against Patch and The Retrospect to prevent them from obtaining a copy of the report, which is attached to this story. That suit, filed when Matt Skoufalos was the Local Editor for Collingswood Patch, has been resolved.

Instead, Oswald’s decision to dismiss McLoughlin appeared to be based on McLoughlin’s performance as coach, which included:

* the ongoing drama involving McLauglin, Hill and Hamrick;

* an unusually high turnover rate for his coaching staff;

* a failure to properly discipline players;

* using a player in both the junior varsity and varsity games in one day in 2012, in violation of NJSIAA rules, which ultimately resulted in Collingswood forfeiting the game; and

* Collingswood's last place finish in the area of sportsmanship in the Colonial Conference following the 2011-12 season.

In 2011, McLaughlin met with Oswald and told him Hill and Hamrick were out to “get him” in a meeting that lasted over four hours. While Hill and Hamrick were always involved in McLoughlin’s annual evaluations, Oswald decided to perform the evaluation following the 2011-12 season himself.

Following McLoughlin’s dismissal, McLoughlin and other members of the community began claiming he was dismissed for racial reasons. McLoughlin is white, but claims he was treated unfairly because he played “too many black players.”

He filed a lawsuit against the district in August of 2013.

The school board called on Borden, who specializes in white-collar criminal defense and is a former Camden County prosecutor, to investigate the case.

Borden obtained written documents and conducted about 20 hours of interviews with current and former school administrators.

According to Borden, McLoughlin and his attorney continued to delay speaking with him until the investigation was nearly complete. When they did finally speak, McLoughlin refused to allow the interview to be recorded.

According to Borden's investigation:

McLoughlin was the coach from 1998-2012. When he became coach, Hill was the Athletic Director.

Borden determined that a 1999 conversation between McLoughlin and Hill in which McLoughlin claimed Hill told him the basketball team was “too dark,” despite Collingswood being a “white high school” did happen.

Following this conversation, McLoughlin claims Hill, who initially gave him a glowing endorsement, became negative toward him and began to seek his removal.

In 1999, 2000 and 2001, Hill called for McLaughlin to be removed, but his efforts were derailed by the Collingswood Education Association each time.

However, in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2009, Hill gave McLoughlin the highest possible numerical evaluation possible. Hill filled out the 2009 evaluation for Hamrick, who was then the Athletic Director, replacing Hill, who had become principal.

No record exists for McLoughlin’s evaluations for 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007 are missing, and the school district has no explanation. All evaluations were obtained from the school district, as McLoughlin refused to turn his copies of the evaluations over to Borden

McLoughlin claims Hill continued to make racist remarks, but there is no evidence of this in McLoughlin’s handwritten notes and he never reported it to the school district’s administration.

McLoughlin told the investigator that he was up for the Retrospect newspaper’s “Coach of the Year” award in 2003, but Hill contacted the editor of the paper and stated that McLoughlin’s selection might “cast a bad light.” McLoughlin had been ejected from two games that season. Ultimately, McLoughlin was not chosen to receive the honor.

Hamrick became Athletic Director in 2009. McLoughlin claims to have had a conversation similar to the one with Hill in 1999 about the racial makeup of the team, but Borden has no indication that this is true.


Mel Sharples February 26, 2014 at 05:53 PM
So can we now sue Joe M and make him pay for the cost of the study? Because you know that didn't come cheap. At least Joe gets to keep his dignity. Oh, wait...he doesn't.
Collingswoodnative February 27, 2014 at 10:35 AM
Oh the drama! "No record exists for McLoughlin’s evaluations for 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007 are missing, and the school district has no explanation. All evaluations were obtained from the school district, as McLoughlin refused to turn his copies of the evaluations over to Borden"
Sean Andrew February 27, 2014 at 04:39 PM
First of all, that picture is priceless in so many ways. He refused to turn copies of his evaluations over to investigators. I'm sure his attorneys advised him to refuse. He refused to be recorded (with his knowledge). I'm sure his attorneys advised him to refuse. Seems obvious the money grab is more important to Joe than grabbing for the truth. Sad, sad man.
Cop 1 February 27, 2014 at 07:18 PM
Well let's look at this? Borden was hired by the school board so he found just a little to say he was fair about it. But also making sure he didn't jam the school up either. As far as him being last in sportsmanship that's a crock of crap. Schools only care about winning. Answer this question? Who and when was the last school to get a state championship jacket for coming in first for sportsmanship? Go ahead I'll wait.
Mel Sharples February 28, 2014 at 07:19 AM
Cop 1 - with all due respect, who cares? I've lived here for several years and don't know if the hoops team has even won 1 game. I suspect most of the residents feel the same way. This is a guy who, from where I sit as a taxpayer, cost me money. This is a guy who, as I sit here as a resident who is proud of where they live, embarrassed the borough by making unsubstantiated claims of racism that people asked me about. That's the sum total of who he is to most of the citizenry. This ain't Texas. And, may I ask, since Joe left....was the team majority white?
Sean Andrew February 28, 2014 at 07:45 AM
Mel, the five players starting the first game the year after Joe departed were anything but white. They were the five best players. And it remains that way today. What I can't tell you is if they won that game. Or what their record is today. This is a story about a guy who didn't get his way. And a guy who still doesn't have the courage to speak for himself. Go ahead, Joe. Be a man. Say you're sorry.
John February 28, 2014 at 08:32 AM
Catholic sports programs always had the luxury - if you want to call it that - of being able to recruit good players into the program because there isn't any "district lines" they have to worry about. Public school coaches began to get around that boundary simply by finding an address. I ve met Joe once or twice and found him to be a very nice guy. My opinion and it's only my opinion is that Joe was trying to provide opportunity to a kid(s) where there wasn't any. His heart was in the right place however, funding a public school the size of Collingswood with all its cost including the extra curriculum along with the free lunches not to mention things like The Heights Of Collingswood that pays NO school tax what so ever and then you throw in the phoney addresses on top of that and you can see why people finally began to cry foul . Especially those parents who pay the astronomical school tax. I mean, can you blame them ? Good intentions don't work when it begins to come at such a high cost to others. This situation is a perfect example of that.
Mel Sharples February 28, 2014 at 09:03 AM
Sean, that's what I assumed - that the best players would start and that you wouldn't see a racial shift in the makeup of the team or the minutes. Because Joe made it up. If he was telling the truth you'd have to think the new coach would implement the racial scheme he would have presumably been hired to implement. That's the biggest proof point that Joe was not being honest. I just feel bad for any white athletes who are now looked upon with suspicion because of "good ole" Joe. If there is one thing I learned growing up it's this - AAU / HS / college coaches are always out for themselves. They may help you on the way, but only in the context of advancing themselves.
Sam Tellis February 28, 2014 at 05:44 PM
Sean don't let the truth get in your way.The damage was done when the principal of the high school Ed Hill told the coach many years ago that the team was to BLACK. In other words he didn't want that many BLACKS KIDS ON THE TEAM.That is a racist statement and not unsubstantiated. As an African American I am disgusted that this man is still the principal of our high school(a leopard doesnt change its spots).Answer me this Sean.How is this man who has those kinds of racist views still in charge of not only minority students but any students?As Martin Luther King said "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".
John March 01, 2014 at 01:46 AM
Martin Luther King also spoke about "one day seeing little white boys and white girls playing with little black boys and black girls " not little black boys getting to play while little white boys sit the bench. Especially when the parents of those little white boys are the one paying outragis school tax which funds that school .
GFY March 01, 2014 at 06:53 AM
Wow, John! So white people pay taxes and black people don't? I can see how you support this current school administration. And tell me, who are all these great recruits? When Collingswood won the Colonial and group 2, it was with Collingswood players.
Sean Andrew March 01, 2014 at 12:18 PM
Basic question is did race play any role in the termination of the coach? The answer is no as evidenced by this report and as evidenced by the then and current makeup of the team. As far as recruiting, reach out to any coach in the conference and ask that question. Then, report back.
GFY March 01, 2014 at 05:25 PM
In a sense race did play a role. He had an issue with Hill. Hill said the team was "too dark". Eventually his issue with Hill lead to his termination. And no, I won't ask conference coaches. Don't tell me what to do, Sean!
Mel Sharples March 02, 2014 at 07:07 PM
Lookit, if you don't have anything beyond heresay, that's that. If you get something concrete, come bring it to the public via the media. They love a story like this, having played up the flimsy story of Joe when it first cam out. If you have some proof, I think many of us will join you in addressing this. But right now all I am seeing is a bitter, middle age coach who maxed out at a C+ in terms of his career and is bitter. All I see from his actions is the smearing of an entire community and certain members of the current hoops team. PS - John is a typical Republican who does more damage to his cause than one would think possible every time he opens his mouth or hits a keyboard. He's poison. His mindset isn't where 80% of the people are coming from.
John March 05, 2014 at 07:32 AM
Hey Mel "Not to Sharp" Sharples. Your Legend in your own mind. Get a clue!!
Mel Sharples March 05, 2014 at 09:04 AM
GFY, fair enough. On those points you are correct. My apologies for that unfair characterization. As for John, I'll close with this - rather than read racism into your post I'll just counter them with facts as they are. If you are a C'Wood resident you should read the school budget. A significant portion of the school budget comes from the state. That's based on unclear criteria, but does factor in # renters, # out of area students, income levels, and other economic factors that impact school costs and funding. Same goes for every neighboring district with the exception of Haddonfield. Most of the state budget is derived from sales tax and income tax. So, with all due respect, even those from out of the area are paying for the schools here. Maybe not to the degree that property tax payers in the borough are, but they are paying.
John March 12, 2014 at 05:42 PM
A true story. Back in the 1967 football season , Collingswood found itself going for another group 4 championship. Before the last game would happen ,one which Colls was picked to easily win, a party would take place at a students house in Oaklyn. Turns out , just about all the starters on that 67' team were at the party. From they way it was told, a bottle of whisky began to get passed around and bad choices on behalf of some of those players were made. The house was trashed, furniture thrown into the pool , even the family cat was killed. Well , needless to say , word got back to the school. That led to every player being called into the coaches office. NOT the principals office . Those players were asked "were you there? "Did you drink"? After that was all said and done , those starting seniors were suspended the rest of the season. This led to the J.V. team having the task of trying to secure a group 4 championship season in which they came up short. My point is that Collingswood always had deep rooted integrity when it came to sports . They always encouraged students to try out for sports with an understanding that playing sports was Not a right but a privilege. That coaches would demand an expectation of good grades , and good behavior . Again , the coaches. . I remember way back in the early 70's guys like Sam Courson coming around to classes and briefing us on spectator edicate during a game. Not to talk trash and such. It just wasn't tolerated and for Collingswood coaches to make a decision to basically throw a group 4 championship away like that proves where they are coming from. They stood on principal then and I applaud them for standing on it now. The point of this story is that it was felt by many that Coach Joe was NOT following that old school Colls tradition of holding his players feet to the fire when it came to certain behavior. What happened back in 67' you could say was "white on white discipline" as dumb as it sounds but it was Collingswood s way of saying "this is who we are" . True Collingswood is much more diverse now and has given a great opportunity to many students of a diverse background but that's no reason to throw long standing traditions to the wayside. I think it's time that people respect Collingswood s traditions for what they are and grow up and realize how fortunate they are to be at this school.

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