NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — New Bern High School has been forced to give up its 2022 Class 4A state championship due to academic ineligibilities and allegations of improprieties by the program.

The school announced the decision on Monday after an investigation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, which has been looking into academic irregularities involving the football team.

It eventually led to head coach Torrey Nowell leaving the program in June to take a job at Jordan High School in Durham. Former New Bern High School Principal Jerry Simmons was suspended along with guidance counselor Heidi Ricks on May 30. Simmons eventually retired and former J.H. Rose Principal Dr. Darryl Thomas took over the job.

Terrance Saxby, who was the head coach at Hertford County High School, took over the football program for this fall. It is now under probation for the rest of the season. There has also been an issue involving at least five suspended players who did not dress for the Jacksonville game nearly two weeks ago.

New Bern did have a 6-1 record after last Friday’s win over South Central. The Bears beat Grimsley in the Class 4A state championship on December 9, 2022, 40-28. Grimsley High School officials told WFMY on Monday evening they were informed the state championship would be left vacated and that Grimsley would not be rewarded it.

Craven County Schools released a statement on the news Monday evening.

Craven County Schools was informed by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) on October 2, 2023, that because academically ineligible student-athletes were permitted to participate on the football team during the fall 2022 season, the New Bern High School 2022 Football Program must forfeit all contests, including the state championship, in which the ineligible student-athletes dressed to participate. Additionally, the New Bern High School Football Program is placed on probation for the 2023 season.

We are deeply saddened by this news and know that members of our community are as well.  We also recognize that this will have ramifications for many years to come.  It is extremely important for our families and community to be aware that going forward we have put processes in place to monitor and confirm eligibility for our student-athletes so something of this magnitude never happens again.   Craven County Schools remains committed to supporting our students, former students, and community. We ask for your patience and understanding during this challenging time and acknowledge that there may be many questions that cannot be answered due to laws regarding personnel and student confidentiality.

Most importantly, we are grateful for the actions already taken by our New Bern High School staff, administration, and coaches this school year to foster a culture for our student-athletes to excel and be successful in and out of the classroom.