Tag: Colleen Maguire

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 2: The Sitkowskis

Week Zero is in the books, and the bulk of the Big Central opens up this weekend on Week One, unless Ida’s aftermath has anything to say about it.

Either way, it’s time for Episode 2 of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.

This Week on TWiBC, Mike Pavlichko talks to former Rutgers and Old Bridge quarterback Art Sitkowski, who came off the bench to rally Illinois to a season-opening win over Nebraska.

Then, he’s joined by NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire to talk about her first year at the helm as we head into 2021-22.

Finally, it’s a look at the official NJSIAA football classifications, released Wednesday, and a peek ahead at the weekend’s games.

OPINION: Why now is the right time to allow limited fans at H.S. basketball games

The news broke on NJ.com shortly after flip-off (no tip-offs!) of our high school basketball game last night between No. 6 Colonia and Edison. The Eagles had finished their Senior Night activities, but no parents were anywhere to be found.

In fact, the game was delayed a bit so that the masked parents – who didn’t even bother to take off their coats, that’s how quick they were in and out of the gym – could get home in time to watch and listen to the live stream of the game.

NJ.com reported that Governor Murphy could announce today that limited fans – possibly with an emphasis or priority on parents of seniors – would be allowed at high school basketball games in New Jersey.

The news was not a complete surprise. The day before the regular season started on January 25th, Murphy hinted that he was leaning in that direction “soon,” though didn’t commit to a policy or timetable.

Fans have been missing from high school basketball games across New Jersey, but a few two-dimensional ones – even a couple furry family members – were present at last night’s girls’ basketball home game against Edison.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will be on the Governor’s virtual COVID briefing today to hear the news, if indeed it does get announced today. (Murphy is holding the call virtually after he went into self-quarantine earlier this week following a positive COVID test by one of his family members; the Governor himself has tested negative.)

I say, it’s about time. And the Governor probably has seen enough feedback from the last few weeks to realize it’s possible.

What also helps is that the people involved in this decision-making/feedback process are parents. The Governor has kids who play high school sports, as does NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire. And the Murphy has sat at the dais during COVID with Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, who is also the head football coach at Hackensack.

Here are three people so closely connected to high school sports, that they get it. They are not handing down rules from some ivory tower,

But are they too close? Are they blinded by the emotion of wanting to see their kids play in person so much that they ignore the science?

Not by a long shot.

What the Governor likely will propose is some sort of highly limited capacity. He’s also talked about prioritizing senior parents. But think about it: high school teams are capped at 14 varsity players.

Let’s say parents are only allowed at home games. Assuming every parent could make every game, that’s a maximum 28 parents. But there are single parents, some who work, and some who have other things going on. So we’re probably talking 14 to 28 extra people in a gym.

Most high school gyms can fit at least a couple hundred fans. Many are larger. I’ve heard the question “Who is going to monitor this? How will we make sure they wear masks?”

It’s certainly easier than it was during football season, where stadiums are much larger and much more spread out.

And the timing – I mean, it could be better – but it’s not bad.

The numbers are coming down in New Jersey. They’re better here than in a lot of states.

They’re far from good, of course. And while we still need to take precautions – wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands often – there’s no reason people acting reasonably can”t come into a high school gym.

Take a look around: New York City sports arenas will be opening to very small capacities in just over a week. Of course, fans will be required to show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours, but we’re also talking about 2,000 fans, who likely will have a beer (or two or three) and might be acting rowdy. That won’t be the case with 20 or so high school parents.

I’ve been at four high school basketball games since the start of the season. It was sad to see Edison parents show up for Senior Night, be honored, then have to leave to go home to watch their sons play on YouTube because they’re not allowed in the gym.

But the main thing is this: only three weeks remain in Season 2, for high school basketball. Three weeks, and only very limited opportunities for parents to see their sons and daughters – especially their senior sons and daughters – take the court.

Time is running out faster than we can get a wrap around COVID-19.

The mantra from student-athletes and parents for months had been “Let ‘Em Play.”

Now, I say, “Let ‘Em Watch.” Just maybe not all of them at the same time.

NJSIAA membership votes to allow football state championships; now the real work begins

by Mike Pavlichko

UPDATED with a statement from NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire.

A big hurdle has been cleared in New Jersey’s push to allow state championships in high school football.

At its Executive Committee meeting Wednesday, 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.”

It was widely expected the measure would get the OK from NJSIAA membership. An informal survey of a majority of Big Central Conference schools after the vote last week 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. “Now it is time to get to work on a plan that will bring a true state champion in high school football to reality.”

New Jersey and New York are the only states in the country that don’t play the postseason all the way down to group championships.

But, as Maguire alluded to, actually playing to state champions is not a done deal just yet.

In effect, the vote is an approval of the idea in concept; it only eliminates language that prevented public schools from playing group championships.

Now, the membership must agree on the best way to do that.

Of course, the Football Leagues and Conferences Committee – which was responsible for Step One, already has Step Two ready to go, as outlined in a memo from Maguire, which can be found here. If approved, it would go into effect for the 2022 football season.

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 is thought to address 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.
  • 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.

When could it all be official? By June, according to Maguire’s December 15th memo, which also fully outlined the proposal, and can be found here. The process would be started this Friday.

A proposal from the working group will be submitted to NJSIAA by Friday, January 15, 2021. The Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, January 28, 2021. If the proposal is endorsed by the Advisory Committee, then the members of this working group will present their proposal at two sectional meetings to solicit further feedback. These sectional meetings will be scheduled at a later date,  but we anticipate that they will be held in either March or April. The final form and substance of the  proposal will be subject to approval by the Executive Committee at its meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021

According to the memo, final approval would come at the NJSIAA’s Annual Meeting, which was rescheduled this year from the first Monday in May (per NJSIAA bylaws) to June 7th.

It’s clear from the vote on Article IX the vast majority of NJSIAA schools approve of the idea of playing to state champions. The next challenge is getting everyone to agree on how to do it.

Maguire recaps football, looks ahead to Spring, and weighs in on NJSIAA finances heading into 2021

by Mike Pavlichko

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Central Jersey Sports Radio, NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire says “every game played was a major success” this football season, a year that was unlike any other, played in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

She also looks ahead to the winter season for boys’ and girls’ basketball – which start in January – as well as wrestling, which won’t begin until March.

Maguire’s expertise is in the financial arena, and she says “we’re a bare bones operation” in characterizing the NJSIAA heading into 2021. She says she’s grateful for the one-time stipend from the state, which will help offset some of this year’s losses.

Hear NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire’s full interview below: