In a surprise move, Rutgers-Camden has decided not to rehire Dennis Barth as baseball coach.
Barth, a South Jersey baseball Hall of Famer who was the most accomplished coach in Rutgers-Camden baseball history, complied a 162-123-1 record in seven seasons in charge of the NCAA Division III program.
Barth was a three-time New Jersey Athletic Conference Coach of the Year and led the Scarlet Raptors to the program’s only NCAA regional tournament appearance in 2014.
Wracked by injuries and disrupted by the absence of a home field, Rutgers-Camden went 17-21 last season.
Rutgers-Camden athletic director Jeff Dean has declined to comment on the decision not to rehire Barth, whose teams won the only two NJAC regular-season titles in program history.
Mike Sepanic, Rutgers-Camden associate chancellor for external relations, confirmed in a statement that Barth was not rehired after his contract expired at the end of June and said, “We thank him for his service to both Rutgers and South Jersey. We have begun the process of recruiting a new coach.”
Barth said he believes he was not rehired because of allegations by disgruntled former players that the coach had offered prizes, either cash or school merchandise, to the winners of competitions at practice, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. Barth denied the allegations and noted that all his assistant coaches and several players had written letters to the Rutgers-Camden administration insisting that the allegations were untrue.
In a letter addressed to Rutgers-Camden vice chancellor for student affairs Dr. Mary Beth Daisey, assistant coach Steve Mondile wrote, “I’ve been at 98 percent of our practices and games. I have NEVER seen Dennis do anything that would jeopardize or break any rules during a practice or a game.”
Ian Scheidemann, a senior pitcher for Rutgers-Camden this past season, also denied the allegations in a letter addressed to Daisey.
“I am aware that there are claims against coach Barth that he gave prizes and or money for competitions,” Scheidemann wrote. “These claims are false. Over my three seasons as a player I have never seen him hand out a prize or money.
“The only reward to winning a scrimmage or competitions was no running or not having to pick up the equipment.”
In a letter to Dean and associate athletic director Tom Thomasson, Barth wrote, “I did not decide to start cheating in Year 34 of my coaching career.”
Sepanic said the school has launched an investigation into the allegations.
“Rutgers University-Camden has initiated an internal investigation to identify any potential rules violations,” Sepanic said. “This is an ongoing process that helps us determine whether any shortcomings exist and, if so, to self-report them as required by NCAA rules and to remedy them as best practices demand.”
Letters of support for Barth also were sent to the Rutgers-Camden administration from several former players as well as Phillies scout Rowland George, player agent Jim Ulrich, and Gloucester Catholic High School principal Edward Beckett, among others.
Barth is widely regarded as one of the top baseball coaches in state history. In 19 seasons at Gloucester Catholic, his teams went 485-94-1 and won nine state titles as well as six Diamond Classic crowns.
Barth also has coached the Brooklawn American Legion team to three World Series titles.
Barth became Rutgers-Camden’s coach in 2013 and immediately rejuvenated a program that had managed just one winning record in the previous six seasons.
Barth’s first team went 23-19. His 2014 team went 30-13-1, won the first NJAC regular-season title in school history, and also notched the first NCAA Tournament victory in school history.
Rutgers-Camden won another NJAC regular-season title in 2015.
Mondile also noted in his letter to the administration that Barth had spent nearly $80,000 of his own money to build batting cages and other workout facilities inside Campbell’s Field.
Rutgers-Camden played the 2019 season without a home field after the demolition of Campbell’s Field. The team scrambled for practice time and played “home” games at sites such as Camden County College, Rowan College at Gloucester County, and Maplezone Sports Institute in Aston, Pa.
With Rutgers-Camden set to open a new baseball field and recreation facility on the Campbell’s Field site on the riverfront in the spring of 2020, Barth anticipated the opportunity to host an NCAA regional as well as summer tournaments.
Barth said he hopes to continue coaching, either at the high school or college level.