Central Jersey Sports Radio has learned the Union High School football team would have no recourse to play its North 2, Group 5 semifinal playoff game at another date and time, after four players tested positive for COVID late this week.
Union – the top seed in the section – was considered a heavy favorite to win the section, and was scheduled to play Eastside Paterson Friday night at 7 at Cooke Field. But after two players came down with symptoms and tested positive for COVID Thursday, and two more among the unvaccinated members of the team tested positive, schools superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor made the decision to cancel Friday’s game, seeking an alternative date and time they could play.
Taylor says he was told by Colleen Maguire, the NJSIAA’s Executive Director, that a makeup would not be possible, citing policy recommended by her to the NJSIAA Program Review Committee, and adopted by the Executive Committee at its September 15th meeting.
In the meeting minutes, it is noted that “Once the tournament starts, brackets are locked. It is too much chaos on both NJSIAA staff and schools to make the last-minute changes in securing buses, officials, etc.”
The policy recommended by Maguire and later adopted states:
- NJSIAA will not delay or modify any state tournament schedule for a team that cannot participate due to COVID-19 issues.
- Once a state tournament officially starts, the tournament will progress as scheduled – this is regardless of a team’s first scheduled event in the tournament.
- For any team that cannot participate on the date scheduled, or play by date, then the opponent will advance.
- Prior to the official start of a state tournament, if a team cannot participate then NJSIAA will make every effort to replace the team with the next ranked team that did not qualify for the state tournament.
- If a team is replaced, the bracket will not be re-seeded. The team will be inserted into the bracket.
In an exclusive interview with Central Jersey Sports Radio, Dr. Taylor told Mike Pavlichko that if told the game could be rescheduled, “I would move mountains to make preparations to make this work.”
Dr. Taylor also praised the student-athletes who met with him Friday to discuss the situation, saying the represented themselves well.
The football players also have change.org petition, asking for a chance to play the game. It was about 100 signatures shy of its goal of 5,000 as of 4:45 pm Saturday. A link to the petition can be found here.