Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Concept Worth the Vote

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Concept Worth the Vote

Article excerpt

If they can play a Super Bowl in New Jersey in February, they sure can play a high school football state final in mid-December.

A concept -- and yes, it's still a concept because it still has a way to go -- to play down New Jersey public school football to single group champions was formulated Tuesday in a three-hour meeting at NJSIAA headquarters in Robbinsville by the Leagues and Conferences Committee.

The biggest change to the current system is the season would start earlier. Week 1 would be Sept. 5-6 in 2014, and Sept. 4-5 in 2015. In 2015, that would mean starting the season before Labor Day and probably before school starts in many areas.

Starting the season before Labor Day is seen as sacrilege by some New Jersey coaches, but most teams are scrimmaging and practicing that weekend, anyway.

The committee agreed to stay at five groups for public school football, keep the number of regular-season games at nine, and Thanksgiving games can be played as scheduled. But in order to determine true state champions, something had to give.

So pack your toe warmers.

The concept would schedule the state finals during the second weekend of December (average high temperature in East Rutherford? 44 degrees).

"To be honest, because we were extending the season a week, there was more talk about the impact on winter programs," said Big North executive director Denis Nelson, who attended the meeting. "But since it's only 10 schools being impacted if they make it to the group final, the feeling was that it was fairly minimal. The weather could be bad any time from mid-November on. Look at the weather last October."

New Jersey lags far behind every other state in its treatment of high school football. It's the only state that plays down to sectional champions, then stops. It has made the state a punch line in national football circles with its 24 football champions, and probably has deprived public schools of their rightful credit for being so strong.

It's also been an anomaly in a state that greatly promotes its Tournament of Champions in basketball, volleyball and lacrosse. And in wrestling, does New Jersey stop when it has eight kids remaining in a weight class? …

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