Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Senator Calls out Njsiaa

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Senator Calls out Njsiaa

Article excerpt

Sen. Nick Sacco, D-North Bergen, would like to see high school athletics in New Jersey completely split along public and non- public lines, and said he's willing to propose legislation if the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association doesn't resolve the competitive imbalance that currently exists.

"The complete unfairness of this situation where schools can recruit, give scholarships, and take talent from all over the region, not just the state, and then have an organization like the NJSIAA insist they play public schools in their league is so unfair to football players and other athletes," Sacco said Monday.

He later said that if the NJSIAA can't find a way to straighten this out, he was willing to convene legislative hearings, and maybe even invoke subpoena power to get the truth about alleged non- public schools' recruiting tactics.

"Hopefully, it doesn't have to come to that," Sacco said.

The issue of a level playing field has been under discussion by the NJSIAA's public/non-public committee that's been meeting since the beginning of the school year. NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko expressed confidence in the committee Monday, and said there is no timeline for its recommendations to be made public.

The fact that the matter of an even playing field for high school athletics has gotten the attention of New Jersey politicians - this isn't the first time - shows how much dissatisfaction and tension exists right now.

Public schools have long felt that non-public schools have had an unfair athletic advantage. With non-publics not bound by the same rules governing a student-athlete's hometown, and publics trapped by an outdated geographic league structure, the publics have long lamented having to play all-star teams made up from multiple states.

This tenuous peace has endured for a long time because things were still somewhat competitive on the playing field. Public schools beating non-public schools in football and wrestling happened rarely, but did happen. Now the pendulum has swung as the non- public schools have broadened their appeal and scope by playing more national competition. Football may get the most attention, but Immaculate Heart won a mythical national championship in girls soccer last fall, and more non-public schools have lined up games for television coverage.

The non-public schools counter by saying they're living up to a higher standard by giving student-athletes opportunities that the public schools cannot provide. They also refer to public schools that are able to win games by large margins against other public schools, but gripe when the victor is a non-public school. Both cases have merit. This isn't an issue that's uncommon in America, but New Jersey -- specifically North Jersey with its national football and wrestling powerhouses -- is at the epicenter. …

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