• Dan Russoman

NJSIAA to vote on state football championships


St. Joseph Academy's Wildcats crushed the Hammonton Blue Devils last month during a rivalry game. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

ROBBINSVILLE—The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) will soon vote on whether or not to remove Article IX of its constitution, which would clear the way for public schools to play to true state high school football championships in 2022.


The vote, to be held on January 6, seeks to eliminate Article IX, which states “no state championships will be declared in football.”


Removing the rule will open the door for public school football programs to crown state champions. Currently, only non-public schools in New Jersey finish the season with true state–wide championship games.


Currently, public school teams compete for sectional titles in five enrollment groups. Beginning in 2018, the winners of those championships meet in regional championship games, with the two North Jersey (Section 1 and 2) meeting in one game while the winners of Central and South Jersey meet in the other. New Jersey is one of only two states (New York is the other) that does not play to true state champions in football. The NJSIAA crowns state champions in every other sport it sponsors.


Restrictions due to COVID-19 canceled playoffs this season, but they are expected to resume next year. Next month’s vote would not change the postseason in 2021, but go into effect the following season.


The vote needs two-thirds approval of the NJSIAA membership to pass.


The New Jersey Football Coaches Association (NJFAC) has announced a tentative layout for a season that includes state finals.


The first eight weeks of the season would make up the regular seasons schedule for each team. Weeks nine through eleven would be used for sectional playoffs, with eight teams in each section qualifying for the postseason.


Week 12 would host the group semifinals. Week 13 is slated to be used for state championships and is scheduled for the weekend following Thanksgiving, allowing for those traditional rivalries to be played, an issue that has caused problems with previous efforts to have true state championship games.


With Thanksgiving games intact, teams could play up to 14 games if they reach the state championship. The season would begin on Labor Day weekend and (in 2022) end the weekend of December 2-4.


A team that does not qualify for the postseason will have the option of adding two extra games, and those eliminated in the quarterfinals of the sectional playoffs would be allowed to add an additional game as well.


Locally, the move would impact Hammonton High School, which competes as a Group 4 school. The Blue Devils won the Central Jersey Group 4 title in 2019, before falling to South Jersey champ Shawnee in a regional championship game. If the NJSIAA eliminates Article IX, Hammonton would have moved on to play the North Jersey champion in a state final.