By Phil Anastasia
The Cape-Atlantic League gave an emphatic "thumbs up" to the possibility of an alliance with the Colonial Conference for football in 2014.
The Colonial Conference raised its index finger, asking for more time.
Colonial Conference athletic directors deferred the decision to superintendents and Boards of Education at each district after meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the proposed alliance.
The proposal now will be presented to each Colonial Conference school's superintendent and Board of Education.
The decision on whether to move forward with the alliance will be made at the administrative level of each school district. There is no timetable for when officials at each school district will make a decision.
A 2/3 majority (eight of the 12 schools) would be needed for the Colonial Conference to move forward with a plan that would create unique cross-over games such as West Deptford vs. Mainland, Haddonfield vs Bridgeton and Paulsboro vs. Pleasantville, among many others.
Basically, the ADs kicked the decision upstairs although they were required to do that as Colonial Conference protocol calls for the approval of superintendents and Boards of Ed for changes of this magnitude.
CAL president Mike Gatley said his league allows ADs to make decisions with regard to scheduling.
Gatley, the athletic director at Mainland, said the CAL athletic directors who were present voted in favor of the alliance by 16-1 with one abstention on Monday.
Gatley believes the two leagues are "similar" in that there are teams in both leagues that would benefit from new cross-over games.
Gatley said the "carrot" for the alliance was the possibility that both leagues could join with the West Jersey Football League to form a South Jersey superconference of 95 schools for the 2016 season.
Gatley said the CAL has aligned into three divisions for football in anticipation of the alliance for that reason -- to smooth the possible transition to the WJFL in two years.
"The divisions are set up by group size because that's one of the main tenets of the West Jersey," Gatley said of the proposed division alignments in the CAL.
Gatley said that was the reason that St. Joseph would be placed in the CAL's smallest division with Bridgeton, Buena, Middle Twp., Lower Cape May and Pleasantville.
St. Joseph is No. 2 in The Inquirer Top 25 and projects as one of the top five teams in the state in the next two seasons.
"To prepare ourselves for an opportunity to get into the WJFL, we had to look at group size," in division alignments, Gatley said.
Currently, St. Joseph is a member of the CAL's American Division, which has mostly large public schools.
St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco has said a move down in division would be "10 steps backward for this program."
The talks between the Colonial Conference and Cape-Atlantic League began after Colonial Conference representatives approached the West Jersey Football League earlier this month about the possibility of joining the 66-team league.
According to sources, WJFL officials told Colonial Conference officials that the WJFL was reluctant to accept any new teams for the 2014-15 schedule cycle but that the WJFL could be open to expanding in 2016.
The WJFL had turned down the Cape-Atlantic League's application in February.
Under the proposed alliance, the Colonial Conference would keep intact its two divisions, the Liberty and Patriot. The change for the 12 Colonial teams would involve cross-over games, with teams playing one or two against Cape-Atlantic teams.
Thanksgiving games and other traditional rivalries would be preserved.
The Colonial Conference has been looking to eliminate lopsided cross-over games such as West Deptford vs. Gateway (a 76-0 win for the Eagles this season) and also to create a situation where its Group 2 teams would have a better opportunity to generate power points for the playoffs.
The Cape-Atlantic League would change more drastically under one version of the proposed alliance. The 17 CAL teams would be aligned into three divisions, although only teams in the smaller two divisions would play cross-over games with Colonial teams.
No Group 5 or Non-Public team in the CAL would play a Colonial opponent.
Other possible matchups could include Collingswood vs. Middle Township, Sterling vs. Cedar Creek, Overbrook vs. Lower Cape May, Audubon vs. Buena and Haddon Township vs. Buena, among others.
The larger CAL teams in the American Division would be provided with eight games on the schedule. They would need to find an outside game for their ninth game, although they could arrange to play another CAL American team twice in the season.
St. Augustine Prep officials have indicated a preference for an open date in the schedule to arrange for an outside game to help raise the profile of the program.
St. Joseph would be provided with eight games, although one of them would be its annual matchup with cross-town rival Hammonton.
It's highly possible Hammonton will not have an open date in its first year in the WJFL in 2014, which would force St. Joseph to find two outside games.
St. Joseph's two cross-over games in the CAL would be against Holy Spirit and St. Augustine.
As a proposed member of the National Division, Holy Spirit would receive a full schedule of nine games, with cross-overs with St. Joseph, St. Augustine and three CAL public-school teams.
Here's a look at one version of the proposed divisions in the loose alliance:
Colonial Liberty: West Deptford, Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, Collingswood, Sterling, Overbrook.
Colonial Patriot: Woodbury, Paulsboro, Audubon, Haddon Township, Gateway, Lindenwold.
Cape American: Millville, Atlantic City, Absegami, Egg Harbor Township, Vineland, St. Augustine Prep.
Cape National: Mainland, Oakcrest, Ocean City, Cedar Creek, Holy Spirit.
Cape United: Bridgeton, Buena, Middle Township, Lower Cape May, Pleasantville, St. Joseph.
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