Vast majority of Big Central schools support NJSIAA proposal that would pave the way for state championships in football

Sayreville celebrates after winning the North 2, Group 4 title in 2016 at Rutgers University in Piscataway. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

by Mike Pavlichko

NOTE: Vote totals in this story will be updated as they become available.

An informal survey of Athletic Directors and coaches in the Big Central Conference show a large number voted or plan to vote for the NJSIAA proposal to eliminate language in its constitution that prohibits state championships in football.

So far, out of 39 schools who responded to inquiries by Central Jersey Sports Radio, 36 supported the measure. Two did not, and one was not sure how it would vote.

That could give the measure the push it needs to get approved; many observers seem to feel the measure finally has a chance of passing after filing twice prior, in 2011, and most recently in 2013.

The measure was put to the NJSIAA membership at its annual meeting Wednesday. Executive Director Colleen Maguire told the meeting about 280 schools had already voted. Others have to get their votes in no later than Friday, whether by email, fax or physical mail, the last of which must be postmarked Friday.

The final vote will be announced next Wednesday at the NJSIAA’s Executive Committee meeting.

Eliminating the phrase “no state championships, however, shall be declared in football” from Article X of the NJSIAA constitution would pave the way for the association to add an additional round to the playoffs, culminating in Group Championships for public schools in each of the five groups, for the first time ever.

New Jersey and New York are the only two states in the nation that do not play down to state champs.

New Jersey has traditionally ended the playoffs with sectional championships, but two years ago added an extra round to crown “regional champions” – north and south – in each group. The games were met with mixed reviews since it was seen as the halfway point to a true championship, and didn’t quite reach the proverbial finish line.

The vast majority were strong supporters of the idea. A few athletic directors or coaches told CJSR that while they weren’t necessarily big proponents of the idea, they didn’t want to stand in the way of what appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Those opposed, however, had concerns over safety, time and the value of titles.

Of the two schools that voted against the proposal, one coach said in an email that he and his administration felt playing to state group champions would diminish the value of sectional championships. He noted that as far back as 2000, there were “22 sectional champs and 22 happy school districts,” with 16 public group champs and four non-public winners. Their seasons all ended with wins and state titles. He says the NJSIAA’s proposal would leave “five state champions and five happy districts” among public schools. There, of course, would be three additional non-public champs as well, for a total of eight.

Another coach said in a text response to CJSR that his district voted against the proposal for a number of reasons. He believes it would “negatively impact participation numbers and the health and safety of our players,” noting the extra week of the season, and the earlier start date to accommodate an extra round of playoffs, as well as the fact that the extra week week would be during the hottest part of the year, in August.

The coach also said his district encourages multi-sport athletes and believes in giving them time to do that, as well as to spend time with their families in the summer. He believes “we are hogging that time” by moving the start date back, noting “it’s costing us players and it’s unfair to the kids.”

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