ROBBINSVILLE - Imagine the Atlantic City High School football team playing Elizabeth of Union County for a state championship or Hammonton meeting Wayne Hills of Bergen County for a state title.
Such dream matchups could be one year away. New Jersey public high school football teams could play for state titles in 2014.
State high schools probably will vote in December on a proposal that would eliminate a clause in the New Jersey State Inter-scholastic Athletic Association constitution that prevents public schools from playing to a state championship in football. The NJSIAA governs New Jersey high school sports.
NJSIAA membership voted against a 2011 proposal to allow public high schools to play to a state championship.
But this year's proposal seems to have more positive momentum.
"We're one of few states that doesn't play to a state championship," NSJIAA assistant director Jack Dubois said Wednesday after the organization's executive committee meeting. "I think it's time we provide that opportunity to our member schools and our student-athletes."
Egg Harbor Township coach Tony DeRosa said the move would increase interest in New Jersey high school football.
"It would draw a lot more excitement to the game seeing a big-time team from South Jersey playing a North Jersey team," he said. "If they come up with a good plan, I think it could work."
The NJSIAA advisory committee approved changing the constitution Wednesday. The NJSIAA executive committee will consider the matter next month.
Even if the executive committee does not approve the change, it still can be placed on the December ballot for a vote. Twenty state schools just need to sign a petition to put the measure on the ballot.
"It's going to be on the ballot," DuBois said.
Public high schools currently play for sectional (South, Central, North I and North II) championships.
A proposal for a new playoff format already has started to take shape. Several schools in the Big North Conference in North Jersey have circulated a plan.
The proposal features the following key parts:
•Preserves Thanksgiving rivalries.
•Teams that reach the state title game would play 14 contests as opposed to 12 now.
•The season would start the Friday after Labor Day most years. On some years when Thanksgiving is early in November, the season would have to start Labor Day weekend.
•Teams would play eight regular-season games before the playoffs with no open weeks. The playoffs would start the first weekend in November.
•The season would end - as it does now - the first weekend in December.
•The NJSIAA would assign teams that don't make the playoffs two consolation games. Non-playoff teams also would have the option of scheduling another game on their own. The NJSIAA currently assigns non-playoff teams one consolation game.
In the past, NJSIAA officials said they couldn't remember exactly why the organization's constitution bans statewide football playoffs. The playoffs began in 1974. The NJSIAA already violates the constitution by allowing non-public schools to play for state titles.
In other business Wednesday, the NJSIAA made changes to the football playoff format for the upcoming season. Teams now will qualify for the playoffs based on power points accumulated in seven of their first eight games. The game among the first eight with the lowest power-point total will be dropped. Teams earn powers points based on their wins and their opponents' victories and enrollment group.
Teams also no longer will need to be at least .500 at the playoff qualifying date to make the postseason. The top eight teams with most power points - regardless of record - in each section will make the playoffs.
DuBois said the measure is designed to encourage teams to schedule powerhouse opponents without fear of losing power points.
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