• Dan Russoman

NJSIAA moves closer to state football champions


If adopted, the ballot would clear the way for the NJSIAA to approve state football championships as early as the 2022 season. (Courtesy Photo)

ROBBINSVILLE—New Jersey took another step toward hosting true state championship football games for its high schools last week as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) formally introduced a ballot proposal to eliminate a line in its constitution that prohibits such games.


The ballot proposal reads:


“NJSIAA staff, in conjunction with the New Jersey Football Coaches Association, has proposed to amend the NJSIAA Constitution provision which provides a state championship from being declared in football. Under the proposal, the provision prohibiting a state championship in football would be removed from the Constitution.


“The Advisory Committee and the Executive Committee have endorsed the proposal.”


The NJSIAA has hosted football playoffs since 1973, and beginning in 2018, public sections have played to within one game of a state final. Teams compete for sectional titles in five enrollment groups, with the North 1 and North 2 winners playing each other and the Central and South champions also meeting in what have been called “regional championship games.”


Under the New Jersey Football Coaches Association (NJFCA) proposal, once the path is cleared for state championship games, the first eight weeks of the season would constitute the regular season. Weeks nine through 12 would include sectional playoffs and group semifinals.


There would then be a week off for traditional Thanksgiving games, with the state finals the following week.


NJSIAA Chief Operating Officer Colleen Maguire argued in favor of the amendment during a January 6 meeting.


“This ballot represents a historic moment. In 1918, on the heels of a different pandemic, this organization was formed for the express purpose of awarding a statewide football champion. In 1931, the association reversed course and this prohibition has been in place ever since. Whatever went into that decision nine decades ago to prohibit state championships, times have changed. I believe it is time for us to return to those roots that were planted in November 1918 and clear the way so that our student-athletes can play football and have the same opportunity to play for a state championship that all other student-athletes in all other sports have,” Maguire said.


The proposal needs a two-thirds vote of the general assembly to pass. Voting took place by mail and results were scheduled to be announced on January 13 at the NJSIAA’s January Executive Council Meeting.


If adopted, the ballot would clear the way for the NJSIAA to approve state football championships as early as the 2022 season.


John Jacob, Commissioner of the NJFCA, felt the measure would pass.


“All the stakeholders, everyone from the NJSIAA to the coaches to the athletic directors to the principals to administrators, we are in a much more aligned state than we were in the past. I think a lot of areas of concern and the areas that gave stakeholders pause in wanting to vote to have the Constitution amended have been addressed. It’s been made clear that this is nothing more than a vote to remove the language, it’s not a vote for a proposal. The proposal would then require another membership vote and I think the NJSIAA and Colleen Maguire articulating that very clearly makes a difference. Reading the pulse around the state, I think we all feel fairly positive that it’s going to pass,” Jacobs said.