Two controversial votes that would have dramatically altered New Jersey’s scholastic sports landscape have been reversed.
State Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe announced the rulings Monday in a letter to NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko.
Earlier this month, member schools voted 215-128 with two abstentions to move nonpublic schools, beginning in 2016, to a separate conference for football, with interleague play against public schools taking place at the discretion of each school.
They also voted 216-121 with eight abstentions to restructure the state individual wrestling tournament, beginning in 2016-17, with the formation of two nonpublic school districts and one nonpublic school region to compete separately from 28 public school districts and seven public school regions.
In his ruling, Hespe reversed those votes, preserving the current postseason structure of the NJSIAA Individual Wrestling Championships and the current regular-season structure of football statewide.
Hespe’s decision certainly pleased the parochial contingent of South Jersey high schools.
Among those thrilled is Holy Cross football coach Frank Holmes.
“Relief,” Holmes said of his first thought after he heard the news. “I couldn’t believe educated people were pushing for something like this. It blew me away.”
The Lancers’ coach spent two years at Willingboro High as an assistant and 15 more at Delran, where he currently teaches physical education.
“There never was really a doubt in my mind the commissioner would (shoot down the ruling) based on past practice. … I’m very proud he did. I don’t see an imbalance down here, and not all Catholic schools are created equal. I think there are many of us doing it the right way. I don’t know what’s going on up North Jersey.”
“Ensuring a competitive balance and equitable playing opportunities are critical components of NJSIAA’s mission,” Hespe wrote to Timko. “However, longstanding and equally important goals of interscholastic sports relate to preparing students for life in a global society and maximizing the benefits of diversity among student athletes from different backgrounds and life experiences, including race, ethnicity and religion.”