Flurry of football changes, some large, some small, approved by NJSIAA for ’22

The NJSIAA has made a host of changes to football regulations for the 2022 season, the most notable of which would allow an additional “multiplier” game to be counted toward power points, and require teams to have at least two wins to reach the postseason. Video replay in the playoffs also is out.

“Schools may receive multiplier values for two opponents – the two highest games will be used,” according to a memo from NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire, whose changes were approved by the Executive Committee this week.

Multiplier teams are non-public teams for which public schools are awarded an inflated, set amount of points, regardless of the non-public team’s record. They were instituted several years ago when some North Jersey non-public had difficulty filling out schedules with New Jersey teams.

Previously, a team could play as many multipliers as they like, but only claim the multiplier points for the game that earned them the most points. For example, if a team went 1-1 against multipliers of the same value, they’d get multiplier points for the win and traditional points for the loss.

In 2022, they’d get multiplier points for both.

The move could affect several Big Central schools, since some in the Shore Conference – which a source tells CJSR pushed for the change – typically play two multiplier schools. Manalapan, for example, played St. John Vianney and Red Bank Catholic last year. But they only got multiplier points for one of those games.

Had the rule been in place last year, they might have gotten both, and it could have bumped Hillsborough – the eventual South Group 5 regional champion – from the overall top seed.

Rumson-Fair Haven, Middletown South, Manalapan and Wall are all in the Shore’s American Division with Red Bank Catholic and Donovan Catholic, and those extra points could greatly affect any Big Central teams who are in playoff sections with those four.

As far as minimum wins to make the playoffs, the NJSIAA codified last year that all undefeated teams shall automatically qualify for the playoffs, regardless of UPR standing, and that no winless teams would qualify. Now, it’s upped that minimum to two games, though some reportedly pushed for that to be increased to three.

Teams had to have a .500 record or better to make the playoffs until that rule was scrapped in the early 2000s.

Each year, the NJSIAA has been evaluating and making tweaks to the complicated UPR system, which took effect in 2018 and has been in use for three seasons – there were no playoffs during the COVID year of 2020. And based on the changes after the last two seasons – that number could increase as more data from additional seasons becomes available to evaluate.

Video replay has now been nixed by the NJSIAA for postseason games, but a seventh official has been added to state tournament championship games. Two controversial calls last year – in the South 3 Regional Championship between Cedar Creek and Woodrow Wilson, and in the North V game between Clifton and East Orange – forced a review of the process. Both games were decided by replay late in the game.

Other changes were more minor, or at least seek to codify and adapt to changes in the playoff system. Teams now are allowed a maximum of 14 games, to accommodate for an extra round of state playoffs to crown overall Group Champions, which will begin this season. Since 2018, teams have been able to max out at 13, including the playoffs, which ended with Regional Championship – one North and one South in each group – essentially a de facto group semifinal.

A maximum nine regular season games are allowed: either eight before the cutoff plus a Thanksgiving game for a total of nine, or all nine before Thanksgiving. Due to its popularity, a Week 0 game is allowed; that will be the weekend of August 26th, allowing teams to have bye weeks during the season if they don’t play on Thanksgiving.

The NJSIAA also addressed the concern of schools “mutually” dropping late season games in order to help their UPR rating. “No scheduled game can be ‘mutually dropped’ by both teams. Games must either be played, or a forfeit be declared.” There will be a process for extenuating circumstances. Last year, some schools reportedly tried to find better opponents late in the season because weaker opponents would hurt their UPR, even if they won. The NJSIAA issued a warning at the time; now it has officially banned the practice in writing.

One complicated issue across all sports has been out-of-state opponents, and calculating power points for those teams. The NJSIAA has now adopted a rule for all sports that out-of-state games will not count toward power points. That would also seem to extend to football’s OSI ranking as well, which was inconsistent in its results since different formulas were used to find the values for those teams. The official football regulations are not due out until August.

The move will make the system much easier to follow for coaches, fans and the media, and even Gridiron New Jersey, the official calculator of football OSI, power points and UPR.

In the memo to the Football Sports Committee Meeting in January that led to the sweeping rule changes, Maguire also pointed out that Gridiron founder and operator Jon Fass often winds up trying to “hunt down” results of games, and stressed the importance of receiving timely and accurate results from teams. Maguire lauded Fass for his efforts – a difficult job, to be sure – especially leading up to cutoff weekend and the ensuing seeding meeting.

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