Thursday, August 21, 2014
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Sam Carchidi | Plan to overhaul football playoffs has merit

There are rumblings that, once again, a proposal for statewide football playoffs is in the works.

The rumblings are true, and the plan being discussed makes a lot of sense.

For one, the football season wouldn't start dreadfully early and cut into summer vacations. For another, the season would end a week before the winter season starts - not ideal, but a manageable time frame. Oh, and most of the Thanksgiving Day rivalries - which are treasured in this part of the state - would be intact.

In short, this plan, which is still a work in progress, deserves serious consideration by athletic directors, coaches and administrators.

Actually, the plan, which is being introduced by the Sussex County Athletic Association, doesn't center on statewide playoffs. But clearly that's one of the intentions of the proposal, which would put schools in leagues with teams of the same group size. The Sussex group says it wants "competitive balance" in the leagues, and it believes that nonpublic schools have an unfair advantage because they do not have geographical restrictions for accepting students. Public schools are restricted to students in their district.

The football-only proposal calls for public and nonpublic schools to be placed in separate leagues.

Kittatinny athletic director Chris Carroll, one of the people putting together the proposal, says the plan could open the door to statewide playoffs.

Currently, only the parochial schools play for state titles in football.

Eight teams still would make the playoffs in each group; the groups, however, would have two sections, and four would qualify from each one. The oh-so-confusing power rankings would disappear (hallelujah!). Instead, the qualifiers would be determined by their winning percentage after eight games.

Remember, each team would play in a league in which everyone has the same group size, making the power rankings obsolete.

The season would start at Week 0. For example, if the plan started in 2007 (which it can't), the season would begin Sept. 8. The playoff cutoff date would be Oct. 27. In the ninth week of the season, Nov. 3, teams could schedule a regular-season game. (This game also could be played on Thanksgiving, if teams aren't in the playoffs.)

Because some long-standing rivalries would end if teams were aligned by group size, the ninth week (Nov. 3) would enable those rivals to face each other.

In the 10th week, playoff quarterfinals would be held, and non-qualifiers could play consolation games. The semifinals would be held Nov. 17. On Thanksgiving (Nov. 22), teams not involved in the playoffs could meet. Playoff teams would play their sectional finals on Nov. 24.

That would enable state semifinals to be held on Dec. 1, followed by state finals on Dec. 8.

This year's sectional finals ended on Dec. 2, so this plan doesn't cause the season to be dragged much longer. And football players still would have a week before the winter sports seasons start.

Carroll said the plan, which eventually will be presented to the NJSIAA, is being fine-tuned. He is looking for input from coaches and can be reached at ccarroll@krhs.net. The plan would divide the sections in half, with each group having an Eastern and Western section and geography being taken into consideration.

South Jersey Group 2, for instance, would look like this:

Eastern section: Allentown, Buena, Delran, Haddon Township, Lower Cape May, Manasquan, Manchester Township, Pleasantville and Point Pleasant Boro.

Western section: Bridgeton, Burlington Township, Cinnaminson, Collingswood, Deptford, Haddonfield, Overbrook, Sterling, West Deptford and Woodrow Wilson.

(To me, the geography is off. Haddon Township and Bridgeton should switch sections, but, as I said, Carroll acknowledged that fine-tuning is needed.)

Let's hypothetically say that the first four teams listed in each of the above sections qualified for the playoffs: Allentown (1), Buena (2), Delran (3) and Haddon Township (4) in the Eastern section, and Bridgeton (1), Burlington Township (2), Cinnaminson (3) and Collingswood (4) in the West.

In the plan, the top seed would cross over and play the No. 4 seed in the other section; the same goes for the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the other quarterfinals.

Hey, a lot of work has to be done, but Carroll and Co. have planted the seeds.

Let's see if they grow.


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