An open letter to those trying to change New Jersey's scholastic football system:
You have spent a lot of time on your proposal, but, based on the results of the last NJSIAA meeting, you need to go back to the drawing board.
You have some good ideas. Getting rid of the dreaded power-points system, which decides which teams qualify for the football playoffs, is at the top of the list.
You can eliminate the power points and put teams in leagues based on their enrollment size.
But you cannot separate the non-public and public schools, as your proposal now states.
Yes, I have read your stats about how non-public schools have dominated the publics in football. But I can also give you stats showing that public schools won many more league titles than the non-publics when they were in the same leagues.
Yes, non-public schools have an advantage because they can draw athletes from wide areas, but it should also be pointed out that many public-school athletes have played on the same town feeder programs and have developed a chemistry before entering high school. So that gives the public-school athletes an edge in that category.
And, besides, if you separate the publics and non-publics for football, you open a can of worms. You're going to have coaches from several sports trying to separate the publics and parochials, er, non-publics. (It says here that the non-publics are even more dominating in basketball than football, but that's another story.)
I know, I know. You say you have enough principals' signatures - 20 are needed - to put this football issue to a vote of the general membership in December. The voters, then, will decide whether to have same-sized schools in the same football leagues and, at the same time, separate the publics and non-publics.
Let me give you a little history. In 1983, New Jersey's commissioner of education mandated that non-public schools have the same opportunities as public schools and be placed in the same conferences.
So even in the unlikely event that the general membership approved this football proposal in December - putting teams in leagues based on their group size, and having separate leagues for the public and non-public schools - the commissioner of education can simply overturn that decision.
And it says here she would. Quickly.
With all due respect, revise your proposal. Listen to the idea introduced by Kingsway principal Tom Coleman at Wednesday's NJSIAA meeting. This was an idea I had proposed the previous week, so I think it has merit.
It goes something like this: Put all the schools - public and non-public - in the same leagues, based on their enrollment. Paul VI (enrollment of 807) and Camden Catholic (775), for instance, have enrollments that would place them in the public-school Group 2 bracket, even though they are currently in the non-public Group 4 section for football.
So have those schools compete with all the Group 2 schools. That way, you wouldn't need power ratings to determine the playoff qualifiers. This same method would be used for all non-publics.
This would get a little tricky, so bear with me. After the playoff fields are set following the eighth week, let's hypothetically say that Camden Catholic was one of the eight qualifiers. That would cause nine teams (eight public schools are needed to fill out the field) to qualify. Camden Catholic would then be pulled out of the section and become one of the qualifiers in the Non-Public 4 field. (If two parochial schools qualified in one bracket, that section would have 10 qualifiers because eight public schools are always needed.)
It's a little confusing, but, hey, it doesn't segregate the non-publics and publics, it gets rid of the power ratings, and it eliminates the ridiculous travel - 240 miles round-trip, in some cases - that your current plan causes for non-public schools.
You say you don't plan to change the current plan, the one that 20 principals are supposedly going to sign. That's a fatal mistake. The plan was killed by the NJSIAA executive committee, 21-6, with three abstentions. That plan, from this point of view, has no chance of passing.
You need to make changes. Put the public and non-public schools together during the regular season, then pull out the non-public qualifiers and put them in parochial brackets during the playoffs.
One of your plan's authors said his proposal wasn't a public-vs.-parochial battle. Let's see whether he means it. My hunch is that this proposal is because of the dominance of non-public North Jersey powers more than anything else.
If you are concerned about having equity in the leagues, my proposal makes sense. It eliminates the unfairness that exists for big schools in small-school leagues - Group 4 Williamstown, for instance, has a difficult time getting enough power points because it plays small schools - and it would align teams based on their size and geography.
The only drawback to my plan is that, because non-public schools draw from such a vast area and can attract superior athletes, their group size is misleading. Perhaps each non-public school could be given a "plus-one" - for instance, if it has Group 2 enrollment when compared to the public schools, it could be moved into Group 3.
Anyway, it's food for thought.