|Stalled drive: push for state football championships in limbo|
As high school football camps get underway around New Jersey, one of the sport's biggest issues doesn't appear to be on anyone's radar.
The overwhelming rejection last December of a proposal to create true football state championships in the Garden State seems to have silenced the debate, at least for now. Members of the NJSIAA voted 183-95 against a change to the organization's constitution that would allow football teams to play for state titles.
That vote came two years after a similar proposal failed in 2011 by a much closer margin. That time, the bid to change the NJSIAA constitution got more "yes" votes than "no" votes, but did not achieve the needed two-thirds majority. In the aftermath, some of those who voted against the idea said they did so because there was no concrete plan for how a state football playoff might work.
So a group of Big North Conference athletic directors, led by Denis Nelson of River Dell, came up with such a plan. In a nutshell, the proposal added two rounds of playoffs to the current system, leaving the present league structure and sectional groupings untouched. But the plan would have caused several other changes that drew widespread opposition across much of New Jersey.
The lopsided vote, and the comments from athletic directors afterwards, made it clear that schools would not support several elements of the Big North plan:
Starting the season earlier -- Many AD's spoke out strongly against the idea of having football season begin a week earlier than it does now. Some bemoaned the potential impact on the Labor Day weekend if high school football games were to be played. Others spoke out against pushing the start of practice further into the summer, and some suggested that starting the schedule earlier would have significant financial costs.
Ending the season later -- The proposal also pushed the date of the public-school state football finals one weekend further into December than the current end of the season. While weather would be a concern, the real issue is impinging on the winter sports season. The transition time from football to winter sports is already short; under the rejected plan, 10 schools would have had less than a week to go from one to the other.
Playing too many games -- With the current concern about concussions and football injuries in general, some athletic directors opposed the idea of adding games. Under the Nelson plan, the ten public state finalists would have played 14 games, two more than any New Jersey high school football team plays now.
Two other issues, while not impacted directly by the rejected plan, may have also contributed to its demise:
Thanksgiving game fears -- The plan proposed by the Big North did not eliminate Thanksgiving Day games. In fact, it specifically made room for them, extending the season instead. But some South Jersey athletic directors voted "no" anyway because they feared the NJSIAA might come back at some future time and try to eliminate Turkey Day games in order to shorten the season by a week.
Nothing for non-public schools -- The Nelson plan was specifically geared toward public schools, but non-public schools also had a vote on changing the constitution. Perhaps if there was some incentive for the non-publics, more of them might have supported the change.
The result of the 2013 vote demonstrates that New Jersey schools and athletic departments don't want to significantly alter their schedules to accommodate a true football state playoff. But the 2011 vote suggests that schools would support a state playoff if it wouldn't greatly impact the schedule.
That leads to the big question: Is that possible? Is there a way to determine state championships in football while not extending the dates of the season, or eliminating Thanksgiving Day games?
It sounds nearly impossible. But Jersey Sports Now believes it can be done.
We have come up with the outline of a plan that fits into the tight constraints of the current schedule. It maintains the Thanksgiving Day games and even has something for the non-public schools.
Click here to read our plan that could bring state football championships to New Jersey!