Athletic directors vote down proposal for state group football championships

Athletic directors vote down proposal for state group football championships

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Athletic directors vote down proposal for state group football championships

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A New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) ballot proposal that would have allowed public schools to play for state group football championships was rejected Monday morning.

The vote by the state’s athletic directors was 183 “no” and 95 “yes,” with three abstentions.

A proposal from the Big North Conference to amend Article IX of the NJSIAA constitution, which prohibits state championships on the gridiron, failed to receive the required two-thirds votes from member schools who attended an annual business meeting at the Pines Manor in Edison.

As a result, a plan to play to group champions beginning in 2014, which the NJSIAA Executive Committee approved last month, must now be tabled for at least two more years, the required waiting period for a proposed constitutional amendment to be reintroduced.

An early start to football — which infringed upon summer vacation time for some — and a late close to the gridiron campaign — which infringed upon the start of the winter sports season for some — were among the key issues that led to the Big North Conference proposal’s failure.

New Jersey crowns group champions in every sport but football. The NJSIAA remains one of just two of the country’s 51 statewide athletic associations whose public schools do not play for group titles on the gridiron.

“I’m completely disappointed,” said Carteret head football coach Matt Yascko, whose Ramblers won sectional titles in 2007 and 2012. “The two times I was lucky enough to win a (sectional) championship, I would have loved to see how it played out.

“I wish that the state would have a chance to showcase some phenomenal matchups between the best teams at the end of the season. Who wouldn’t want to see Piscataway against — take your pick — say a Cherokee or a Shawnee?”

Athletics directors from across the state who attended Monday’s meeting were voting not only to amend Article IX but also on an executive committee-approved proposal to extend the playoffs, which would have been enacted beginning next fall had the constitution been ratified.

The plan to play to overall public school group champions allowed for nine regular-season games and maintained Thanksgiving Day rivalries. The plan extended the season, which would begin on Labor Day weekend in some instances, from 12 to 14 games for teams that reached the group finals. The plan called for the playoffs to conclude one week later and for nonplayoff qualifiers to play one consolation game.

Three rounds of public school playoffs will continue to culminate with the sectional finals on the first weekend in December.

A previous proposal to amend Article IX — which states in part that “no state championship … shall be declared in football” — was defeated by 23 votes in December 2011.

Bob Kanaby, past executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations, who also served as the NJSIAA’s executive director from 1980 to 1993, has stated that the sentence labeling football as the only sport that can’t play for state championships was likely written when the association implemented the gridiron playoffs 40 years ago.

Neither Kanaby nor past NJSIAA officials, including former NJSIAA Assistant Director Jim Loper, have been able to fully explain exactly why Article IX was worded as such to prohibit group titles in football.

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