The possibility of true state champions in New Jersey high school football moved a step forward to reality Wednesday afternoon.
New Jersey schools will have an opportunity to vote in December to remove a clause from the constitution of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association that currently bans statewide football playoffs. The executive committee of the NJSIAA voted 27-1-1 Wednesday morning to allow the December vote. The NJSIAA governs New Jersey high school sports.
Wednesday’s vote came with little discussion by the executive committee, a sign that this proposal has momentum and has generated little controversy.
“Our time has come for football to be on the stage with the other (New Jersey) sports that hold state championships,” NJSIAA assistant director Jack DuBois said.
The New Jersey high school football playoffs began in 1974. Public schools currently only play for section championships. No one currently connected with the NJSIAA is sure now why the clause banning statewide football playoffs was put in the constitution. The NJSIAA already violates the constitution by allowing the state non-public schools to play for football state titles.
The vote on the constitution will be held Dec. 2 at the NJSIAA general membership meeting. Two-thirds of the schools that vote on this proposal at the meeting must approve the removing the constitution ban.
New Jersey currently crowns 20 public school sectional champions in football. The topic of statewide high school football playoffs has been raised for years. New Jersey high schools narrowly defeated a proposal in 2011 that would have created statewide playoffs.
If the constitution is changed, a playoff format that will take effect in 2014 will be developed. DuB
ois said he is advising schools to develop two schedules for 2014 — one for the current playoff format and one for the new one.
A proposal for a statewide playoff is already being discussed. The season would still end the first weekend in December, but some years the season might start Labor Day weekend.
In the past, the Labor Day weekend start has been a concern for some local and other schools on the New Jersey shore. But that seems to be lessening.
“I think everybody is realizing that New Jersey is one of the few states that doesn’t play to a (true state champion),” DuBois said. “In order to have the season end when it does now, you have to play (some) Labor Day weekends.”
The new playoff format would also preserve Thanksgiving rivalries. The state championship games for non-public football teams would also be played the first weekend in December. Teams that reach a state title game could play as many as 14 games compared to 12 now.
Schools will have a chance to discuss the new playoff format at five information meetings the NJSIAA will hold in the fall around the state.
Atlantic City athletic director Frank Campo said Wednesday in a phone interview he wants to study the proposal more. He’s concerned about how a football season with more games would affect multi-sport athletes.
“It’s being pushed by the proponents of football,” he said. “I need to look at it and see how it affects the calendar. We have multi-sport athletes at Atlantic City. We don't have specialists.”
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