Even without all the votes counted, the NJSIAA knows which way it’s going. A winner has been declared, and it’s high school football in New Jersey.
“The vast majority of ballots are in and have been counted,” announced the NJSIAA in a Tweet Friday afternoon following its Annual Meeting, saying “98.6 percent of voting members support the Football Championship Proposal. After a 90-year hiatus, New Jersey will crown group champions in football in 2022.”
The process kicked into high gear in January, when at its Executive Committee meeting, the NJSIAA announced that a measure to eliminate language from its own Constitution saying “no state championships, however, shall be declared in football” passed by a wide margin: 318-12, with six abstentions.
Ultimately 94.6 percent of the 336 schools that voted said “yes.”
A week prior to the vote, an informal survey of a majority of Big Central Conference schools showed 37 schools that responded either had voted or planned to vote in favor of the measure to remove the language, while only two voted against the proposal.
“Our members have spoken and I applaud their decision,” NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire said in a statement at the time.
For years, New Jersey and New York have been the only states in the country that don’t play the postseason all the way down to group championships. Soon, the Empire State will stand alone.
The NJSIAA’s Football Leagues and Conferences Committee had a plan ready to go once the initial vote passed, outlined in a memo from Maguire, which can be found here.
The Big Central Conference’s representatives on the committee are Big Central President and Brearley Athletic Director/Head Football Coach Soctt Miller, as well as Colonia Athletic Director Ben LaSala.
The plan would add an extra week of games to the postseason, allowing for five weeks of playoffs (the typical three sectional weeks, plus group semifinals and finals). But it would “backtime” the season so that the group championships would always be scheduled the week after Thanksgiving. The start of the season would be determined by counting back from Thanksgiving.
The plan addresses several key issues:
- It allows for group champions to be crowned in public schools. Some consider the lack of true “state champions” a detriment to New Jersey football, which otherwise is some of the best in the nation.
- It does not add extra weeks on the back end of the season, avoiding additional conflicts for football players who participate in Winter sports. Many feared an additional week of playoffs would further disrupt football players who also participate in sports like basketball or wrestling. And, the NJSIAA recently made moves to have less overlap with other seasons and sports, as well.
- It allows schools that play on Thanksgiving to continue with those games, without affecting the playoff schedule. Many schools with big rivalry games – like Phillipsburg has with Easton – did not want to be forced to choose between the playoffs or their Turkey Day games.