ROBBINSVILLE - The high school football season would start a week earlier and finish a week later beginning in 2014, under a proposal detailed by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association on Wednesday.
The proposal would allow public school teams to play for a state championship. Public school teams currently only play for sectional titles.
The proposal calls for the season to start the first weekend in September. In some years, such as 2015, that means the season would start before Labor Day. The season would end the second weekend in December with 10 public school teams playing for state titles in five enrollment groups.
NJSIAA schools will vote the first Monday in December on whether to allow public schools to play for state titles in football. The NJSIAA constitution currently prevents state championships for public schools. The football playoffs began in 1974 and no one now connected with the NJSIAA can remember exactly why the ban was put in the constitution. New Jersey non-public schools have played for a state title since 1993.
NJSIAA officials want schools to have as much information as possible before the December vote.
"We want to have an open dialogue," NJSIAA president Thomas Holt said during the organization's executive committee meeting Wednesday morning.
Here are the details of the plan:
• Teams would play a nine-game regular season that includes Thanksgiving games.
• The playoffs would begin week 10 of the season.
• Teams that do not make the playoffs would play a consolation game on week 10 or week 11. Teams will be allowed to play only one consolation game.
• The format for state Non-Public playoffs would remain unchanged. The non-public finals would be played the weekend before Thanksgiving. Non-public state champions would play a maximum of 12 games. Public school state champions would play a maximum of 14 games.
NJSIAA assistant director Jack DuBois said this plan was developed with input from representatives of each of the state's leagues and conferences.
DuBois said the season needed to be lengthened because there was no way to play nine regular season games, preserve Thanksgiving rivalries and play to a state champion.
"You couldn't do it," he said. "The conferences wanted to play nine regular season games."
DuBois said proponents of the plan argue that teams already hold preseason scrimmages over the Labor Day weekend and high schools play during the Memorial Day weekend in the spring.
DuBois also noted that extending the season would affect only 10 schools.
"There are 400 other schools that aren't impacted at all," DuBois said.
The creation of state football playoffs has long been discussed in New Jersey. But in the past, the NJSIAA has not championed the cause like it is currently doing. New Jersey and Massachusetts are the only two states without statewide football playoffs for public schools. Massachusetts will start a statewide playoff in 2014.
"I think New Jersey football should be with the rest of the nation," DuBois said.
In other business, NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said one student tested positive for steroids during the 2012-13 school year. Timko said 510 athletes from 105 schools in 11 sports were tested during the school year.
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