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Football: State title games move step closer

By Phil Anastasia

A proposal to create state championships in public-school football moved into the Red Zone on Wednesday.

By an overwhelming majority, the NJSIAA's executive committee approved a motion by the organization's advisory committee to put the issue of state championship football on the ballot before the general membership in December.

By a vote of 27-1 with one abstention, the executive committee backed the advisory commitee's recommendation to ask the general membership if it wants to approve a constitutional change that would result in state championship games in public-school football for the first time in New Jersey history.

"Our time has come," said NJSIAA assistant director Jack DuBois, who oversees football and has been a strong proponent of the creation of state championships.

At the Dec. 2 general membership meeting, each school will have a vote on whether to change the NJSIAA's constitution, which currently prohibits state championships in public-school football.

A two-third majority of these votes that are cast will be needed to change the constitutution.

If approved the change would go into effect for the 2014 season.

South Jersey football coaches such as Pete Goetz of Triton and Reggie Lawrence of Willingboro expressed support for the proposal, while Atlantic City's Thomas Kelly was less enthusiastic.

"I'm not in favor of the format I have heard," Kelly said. "Soon the season (practice) will have to start in July just to get these games in."

DuBois said a "blueprint" has been developed by the Big North Conference that would be presented to member schools at five sectional meetings this fall. The format could be altered before the December vote, DuBois said.

Tentatively, the proposal calls for the season to start in "Zero Week," which will be the weekend after Labor Day in most years but will be the weekend before Labor Day a couple times in a seven-year cycle.

Teams will play eight regular-season games without byes. The state tournament would start in Week Nine in late October, with state finalists participating in five playoff games.

Teams that make the state finals and also play on Thanksgiving will play 14 games.

Thanksgiving games will be preserved as the playoffs will not be held that weekend.

The state title games still would be held on the first weekend in December. The non-public playoffs would not start until Week 11 so that those title games would be held the same weekend as the public-school title games.

"You have to maintain Thanksgiving to get this legislation through," DuBois said after the NJSIAA monthly meeting at its Robbinsville headquarters.

Teams that don't qualify for the playoffs will have the option of playing one or two consolation games.

Because leagues will soon begin creating football schedules for the 2014-15 cycle, DuBois said the NJSIAA has advised school officials to create an "A schedule" and "B schedule" to account for possible changes as a result of the December vote.

State championships in public football would be a major money-maker for the NJSIAA, which has struggled financially in recent years.

The format would create 15 additional games -- 10 state semifinals and five state finals -- that almost certainly would attract large crowds.

"I think it would," create a significant revenue stream, DuBois said. "But I think there's a real feeling that we should have state champions in football like we do in every other sport."

Contact Phil Anastasia at Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.