ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. - Some football team will be crowned South Jersey's first Group 5 champion in December.
The new classification for public school football was approved by the NJSIAA's executive committee on Wednesday, despite criticism by a couple of South Jersey administrators.
Kingsway athletic director Joe Galliera and Gloucester City superintendent Paul Spaventa, members of the executive committee, encouraged their colleagues to table the proposal to expand the public-school tournament to allow for more consideration by coaches, athletic directors, and others.
But the executive committee voted 21-5, with three abstentions, to approve the proposal. The change will take effect for the football season that starts in September.
"I just didn't feel like there was enough of a chance to talk about it," Galliera said. "It feels like it was rushed through."
Galliera said there was a strong sentiment at a recent meeting of Tri-County Conference athletic directors that the proposal, first presented to the executive committee on April 4, deserved more discussion and debate.
"The feeling by a lot of our athletic directors was that, 'Bang, here it is,' " Galliera said.
Spaventa recommended that the proposal be tabled for another month. He and Galliera cast two of the five votes against the proposal.
NJSIAA associate director Jack DuBois, who oversees football, said the new classification will allow 32 more schools to participate in the postseason tournament.
The addition of another group is expected to be a moneymaker for the NJSIAA, which has lost nearly $2 million since 2006. The NJSIAA made $101,905 on football in 2011, and $91,062 on the sport in 2010.
The addition of a Group 5 expands the public-school tournament by 25 percent.
"It has the potential to be another revenue stream," NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said.
Group 5 would be created for football only. DuBois said the new format will allow for 160 public-school teams to make the playoffs instead of 128, and eliminate 16 of the "dreaded consolation games."
In another football development, the executive committee sent back to the advisory committee a proposal to repeal the bylaw that allows non-public programs to compete for state championships.
That proposal would create sectional championships in non-public football. The proposal was sent back because of an amendment presented by Monsignor Michael Kelly of Seton Hall Prep to create three non-public sections in the northern half of the state, while keeping two in the South.
If approved by the advisory committee, the proposal would be presented to the executive committee in June. If passed, the proposal would be presented to the general membership in December.
A majority vote by the general membership would eliminate state playoffs for non-public teams and create sectional titles in four or five groups, including South A and B, for the 2013 season.
Under the new format for public schools, groups will be composed of 15 schools instead of 19. South Jersey Group 5 would feature the 15 largest programs. South Jersey Group 4 would feature the next-15 largest, and so on.
Shawnee would move down to South Jersey Group 4 and compete with former Group 3 programs such as Timber Creek, Hammonton. Moorestown, and Lacey.
After the opening of Seneca, Shawnee lost nearly 1,000 students and dropped to Group 3 for football from 2006-08. The Renegades have been one of the smaller Group 4 teams since 2009.
"You don't want to be a small 4, 3, 2, or 1," Shawnee coach Tim Gushue. "So knowing that some of the old Group 4s have anywhere from 600-1,000 more students than us, I do welcome the new group system. It does level the playing field."
Moorestown coach Russ Horton criticized the new format.
"I'm not a fan of the addition," Horton said. "Our group doesn't change too much, so that is not a problem. I just think they now have made it easier to get into the playoffs, and is that really a good thing?
"If this addition helps us move forward toward overall state champions, then I will see the merit. If it is just a way to get more teams into the playoffs and increase the NJSIAA coffers, then I am totally against it."
To balance the groups, Pennsauken likely would move to Central Jersey Group 4. The Indians won the South Jersey Group 4 title last season.
"I'm all for anything that gives more kids the opportunity to experience playoff football," Pennsauken coach Clint Tabb said.
This and that. The executive committee approved a proposal to start the 2013 football season on Thursday, Sept. 12, because the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur begins on Friday, Sept. 13. . . . The program review committee withdrew a proposal to expand the wrestling team tournament to five groups for public schools because the team tournament has lost money since the law limiting ticket prices went into effect in January 2010. . . . The executive committee approved a proposal to add the 4x100- and 4x800-meter relays as scoring events at the state track championships, starting in 2013.