Football: An All-Non-Public Division?


If the Cape Atlantic League follows through on Wednesday's vote and formally applies to the West Jersey Football League -- and if the WJFL accepts the CAL schools -- the new superconference will have 83 teams.

Including nine Non-Public teams.

Would all nine fit together in one division?

Would it make sense to have current WJFL members Paul VI, Camden Catholic, Bishop Eustace, Holy Cross, Gloucester Catholic and Notre Dame in the same division with current CAL schools St. Joseph, Holy Spirit and St. Augustine Prep?

A South Jersey Catholic League?

Maybe rotate the schedule so that they all play seven division games -- keeping the smaller schools away from the larger schools on a bi-annual basis, anyway -- and leaving two openings for traditional public-school rivalries?

Some folks would like to see it (and not just those public-school coaches and administrators who feel the non-publics have an unfair advantage and shouldn't be playing against public schools).

There are non-public coaches and administrators who think it would be a good idea, too.

But it's a long shot. For one thing, the WJFL's by-laws prohibit teams from playing against teams that are separated by more than one group in size difference -- unless both schools agree.

So a Group 2 can't play a Group 4 in the WJFL. And a Group 1 can't play a Group 3. And a Group 3 can't play a Group 5.

Now, there are exceptions. This year, for example, NP 4 Paul VI was scheduled to play NP 2 Camden Catholic, since they are traditional Thanksgiving rivals.

CC was moved up from NP 2 to NP 3 after the schedules were set. But both schools had agreed to the game anyway because of the tradition of the rivalry.

But in a NP division in the WJFL, there would be a NP 1 in St. Joe and NP 4s in PVI and St. Augustine.

Would they agree to play? Should they agree to play?

But if not -- and here might be the heart of the issue -- what public 1 and 2s will agree to play St. Joe's?

Maybe the solution would be to create two NP Divisions -- four in the South and five in the North -- with locked-in cross-over games that create and promote rivalries.

A NP South Division could consist of four teams -- SJ, HS, SAP and Gloucester Catholic, which could be pushing into Gloucester County with an athletic campus in Deptford.

Yes, that still creates a NP 4 vs. NP 1 scenario in SAP vs. SJ, but perhaps both schools would agree since they have been rivals in the past. It also creates NP 2 vs. NP 4 scenarios in GC vs. SAP and HS vs. SAP.

(Didn't I say this wasn't going to be easy?)

A NP North Division in the WJFL would consist of BE, CC, PVI, HC and Notre Dame.

Again, same issues. Would NP 2 Holy Cross and NP 2 Bishop Eustace agree to play NP 4 PVI? And vice versa? Would Notre Dame, which is not traditionally aligned with those other private schools, balk at that arrangement?

(Man, this is tougher than I thought).

They could each play two or cross-over games with the other NP division -- giving the NPs five games or six against other NPs -- and still have three or four games against public programs with geographic or traditional ties.

Ideal? Of course not. One thing the WJFL went away from after its first two-year cycle was small divisions. And there are private schools that have good, vibrant, healthy rivalries with several public schools, and it would be a shame if some of that was lost.

But if the CAL joins the WJFL, there's going to be a lot of discussion about what to do with the CAL's Non-Publics, especially St. Joseph.

The Wildcats are a scheduling issue because they are sub-Group 1 in size and Group 5-plus in strength. I mean, the current CAL alignment for football -- which was created after months of internal wrangling -- was formed in part because some of the smaller public schools were complaining about playing SJ.

And there likely are going to be some WJFL public schools that are going to be resistant to playing St. Augustine, too, since the Hermits are pushing more and more into Gloucester and Burlington counties to attract students.

So it's not going to be easy, not matter how the schedule-makers decide to blend the CAL schools into the WJFL -- if it happens.

But the big issues, as always, will be the NP programs and the question of how to fit them into divisions -- population, geography, strength of program?

Creating a nine-team version of a South Jersey Catholic League is one possible solution.

Lumping the private schools together into two divisions -- which will still allow for plenty of big games between public and non-public teams, maintain some traditional rivalries and maybe even start a few new ones  -- is another.

-- Phil Anastasia

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