ROBBINSVILLE – The proposal to create a state-wide non-public football conference will be voted on by the NJSIAA membership at the association’s annual business meeting Dec. 7 at The Pines Manor, Edison.
The NJSIAA’s public/non-public committee, which made the proposal last March, voted 8-4 with one abstention in late October to leave the proposal on the December ballot. The NJSIAA Executive Committee, Wednesday, rejected a motion to take it off the December ballot by a 21-7-1 vote with one abstention.
“It went through Advisory Committee, it went through the Executive Committee last year. It was a year of work to pull it (the proposal) off, I think they (members of the Executive Committee) voiced their concerns and they voted their hearts. I think they did the right thing,” said NJSIAA assistant director Jack DuBois, who oversees football for the association. “I think the membership should speak on this issue.”
If the proposal is approved by a majority of those who vote, it would mean all non-public schools in the state would no longer be members of the conferences they are currently in. They would be in the state-wide non-public football conference, whose rules and divisional alignment would be set up by the conference membership.
State Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe would have to approve the membership vote in order for the NJSIAA to proceed with the state-wide non-public conference. In all likelihood, the creation of the state-wide non-public conference will result in lawsuits being launched by non-public schools who do not want any part of a state-wide non-public football conference.
“You know there’s going to be lawsuits,” said Paul VI athletic director Tony Mitchell, who was among those on the Executive Committee who voted to remove the proposal from the December ballot.
NJSIAA attorney Steve Goodell declined to comment on that possibility.
“I would hope not,” Goodell said. “It’s a difficult decision, which I think ought to be decided by member schools, as opposed to the courts.”
During the discussion on the motion to remove the proposal, the arguments that have been heard forever on this issue were made again.There are those non-public schools south of the Raritan River, who vehemently feel what is a North Jersey issue, is being made a state-wide issue and penalizing them.
The counter argument to that is the North Jersey non-public football powers – Don Bosco Prep, Bergen Catholic, St. Joseph (Montvale), Paramus Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep – are having trouble being able to schedule games against New Jersey schools.vNorth Jersey public schools and other North Jersey non-public schools are reluctant to play to those five schools Non-public schools in Central and South Jersey do not want to be in a state-wide non-public conference. They want to remain in the conference they are currently in.
Red Bank Catholic athletic director Joe Montano said to the Asbury Park Press last March his school is against the state-wide non-public conference.vThere was hope through the summer and the fall that the creation of the 115-member North Jersey Super Football Conference, which would consist of 98 North Jersey public schools and 17 North Jersey non-public schools, would result in the removal of the state-wide non-public conference proposal from the ballot.
However, scheduling issues with the reluctance of other non-public schools in that conference to play “The Big Five” resulted in the public/non-public committee vote to leave the proposal on the ballot.
“I believe if those schools (“The Big Five) all had full schedules when we met last time, the vote would have been to rescind (take off the ballot),” said Mike Zapicchi, the chairman of the public/non-public committee and the NJSIAA Project Manager
Zapicchi said the North Jersey Super Football Conference reached out to schools in Central and South Jersey to see who was willing to play any of the “The Big Five”vschools.vHe said the only school that said yes, was Red Bank Catholic.
Montano told the Asbury Park Press Oct. 14 his school would be willing to play one of those schools if it would help the North Jersey Super Football Conference resolve their scheduling issues and eliminate the possibility of the state-wide non-public conference
Mitchell, whose schools is in the 66-member, soon to be 95-member West Jersey Football League that will runs from Trenton to the southern most part of the state, said he had previously been told by Goodell schools could ask for a waiver not to join the state-wide conference. He said that option no longer exists.
Goodell said there was never any ‘automatic opt out’ provision”
“It’s something that may have been misunderstood,” Goodell said. “The fact is we do have a process, which we’ve had forever, in the event if a school is unhappy with its current conference placement. That would be a hearing in front of the League and Conferences Committee.”
Mitchell,made the point what is a North Jersey issue is being made everyone’s problem. When the WJFL expands to 95 members with the addition of those schools in the Cape Atlantic League and Colonial Conference, it will have nine non-public schools.
“Publics and non-public in the south don’t seem to have a problem playing each other,” Mitchell said. “It could be the fact there is no powerhouse in the south. It could be the fact we work better together.”
Zapicchi said the NJSIAA constitution states it is the NJSIAA’s responsibility to provide schedules for all its members.
“Yes, that’s everyone’s problem because they are all members of the association (NJSIAA).” Zapicchi said.
Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; firstname.lastname@example.org