Football: Public state finals move closer

 

By Phil Anastasia

Jack DuBois believes most New Jersey high school sports fans would love to see how a proposed new playoff system for public schools would end:  With championship games featuring some of the best teams in the state.

But DuBois, an NJSIAA associate director, knows that it's how such a format would occasionally begin that has caused some consternation: With the season opening on Labor Day weekend.

"That's where the resistance lies -- Labor Day," DuBois said after the NJSIAA monthly meeting on Wednesday at its headquarters in Robbinsville.

State championships for public schools moved closer to reality on Wednesday as the NJSIAA's exeuctive committee voted unanimously, with two abstentions, to approve the format that would be used for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

The format would preserve Thanksgiving Day games and extend the season by one week, to the second weekend in December.

But there will be times, such as in 2015, when the season would start on Labor Day weekend.

"There is some concern about that," DuBois said.

The NJSIAA's general membership will vote Dec. 2 on a proposal to allow for state championships in public-school football.

The plan will take effect for the 2014 season if two-thirds of the schools that cast votes approve a measure to remove the second sentence of Article IX of the organzation's constitution: "No state championship shall be declared in football."

DuBois said he and others had met with schools officials around the state at four sectional meetings this fall to explain the proposal and push for its passage.

"Mixed," DuBois said of the reaction around the state. "I'm optimistic but you never know what people are going to do when they go to vote."

Currently, public school teams play for sectional titles in five groups. Non-public teams have been competing for state championships since 1993.

The NJSIAA playoff system began in 1974. The ban on state championships is believed to have been put in place as a nod to the importance of Thanksgiving Day games, but no one connected with the organization knows for sure why that second sentence was put into Article IX.

DuBois said Wednesday's vote by the executive committee was design to insure that school officials have a clear idea before Dec. 2 of the proposed format.

"The schools wanted to make sure there would be no changes or tweaking in the  format," DuBois said."This is what they will be voting on."

Under the proposed format, teams would play a nine-game schedule. Teams that play a Thanksgiving Day game would have a bye during one of the first nine weeks of the season.

The playoffs would start in Week 10, likely the last weekend in October. Teams that miss the playoffs can opt to play a consolation in Week 10 or Week 11.

The sectional finals would be the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The state semifinals would be the first weekend of December and the state finals would be the second weekend of December.

Public-school teams that reach the finals would play 14 games.

The format would remain the same for the non-public playoffs but championship games would be the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Non-public teams that reach the finals would play 12 games.

DuBois said that under the format, "326 of the 346 schools that play football would be done on or before Thanksgiving."

-- Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com

-- Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter

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