NJSIAA might end Non-Public state football playoffs

Posted: February 09, 2012

Camden Catholic football coach Gil Brooks is trying to build a state power.

That used to mean winning a state title.

But under a new proposal that the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's executive committee is expected to approve in April, Camden Catholic won't be able to win a state title in football, and neither will any other non-public football program.

The NJSIAA's football committee has recommended the proposal, which will end state championships in non-public football and replace them with sectional championships.

"My reaction is very negative," said Brooks, who led Camden Catholic to a 10-1 record and a berth in the Non-Public 2 state title game last season. "I don't see the benefit at all."

The NJSIAA's executive committee will vote on the proposal in April, said Steve Timko, the organization's executive director.

Timko said a simple majority vote of the executive committee is needed to pass the proposal. If approved, the change would go into effect for the 2012 football season.

NJSIAA associate director Jack Dubois, the chairman of the football committee, said state championships in non-public football have run "counter" to the organization's constitution.

"Our constitution calls for football to play to a sectional championship," Dubois said. "We were in violation of that."

Public school programs compete for sectional titles but not state titles. A proposal to change the NJSIAA's constitution to allow for state championships in public school football was defeated in a vote of the full membership in December.

DuBois said that after the December vote, his committee received a "lot of push-back" from public schools to align the non-public tournament with the public school tournament.

Dubois said the NJSIAA also will allow for teams with records below .500 to compete in the tournament in hopes of filling out an eight-team bracket in each section.

"I think these have a chance to be much better tournaments," Dubois said. "A team like St. Joseph of Hammonton, which has won a state title in the past by playing just one game, now will play three tournament games to win a title."

Dubois said he expected the executive committee to approve the change in April.

"I think it's going to move," Dubois said.

Non-public teams competed for sectional titles in football from 1975 to '92. In 1993, the NJSIAA instituted a system of statewide playoffs for non-public football.

Under the new proposal, the state would be divided into four sectionals by enrollment - a South Jersey A and South Jersey B and a North Jersey A and North Jersey B.

The proposal would create a greater opportunity for championships for South Jersey teams such as Paul VI and St. Augustine Prep, which have been competing in Non-Public 4 with national powers such as Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic.

"That's a whole other level," Paul VI coach John Doherty said of those North Jersey teams. "I think this [proposal] is worth looking into. I enjoy playing against the best, but when you're talking about Don Bosco and Bergen Catholic, it's a different dynamic.

"It could be cool to have our own little tournament just with South Jersey teams."

Bishop Eustace coach Rob Cormier said that although Don Bosco has dominated Non-Public 4 play, South Jersey teams have fared well in the other non-public groups.

"We've done pretty well at the state level, and that's important to a lot of teams," Cormier said. "I just don't understand taking away state titles."

Holy Cross coach Frank Holmes said the projected South Jersey B group wouldn't be very different from last year's Non-Public 2 group, which included his team as well as eventual state champion Holy Spirit, Camden Catholic, Bishop Eustace, and Glocuester Catholic.

"I think they might be out-thinking themselves," Holmes said of the NJSIAA.

Under the proposal, the South Jersey B group would include St. Joseph of Hammonton, Holy Spirit, and Camden Catholic - three of South Jersey's strongest programs.

St. Joseph of Hammonton has won 13 state titles since 1993, including three in a row. Holy Spirit has won three state titles since 2007, including two in a row. And Camden Catholic is coming off a school record for victories in a season and looming as a likely top 5 team in 2012.

"I don't understand why you would want to narrow the field," Brooks said. "One of the allures is to play teams from other parts of the state."


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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