"This provides more opportunities, and that's what we're all about," said NJSIAA associate director Jack DuBois, who oversees football.
DuBois announced the plan to create a Group 5 at the NJSIAA's executive committee meeting on Wednesday. The proposal was approved by the Program Review committee by a 5-0 vote with one abstention on Wednesday morning, and the first reading was passed unanimously by the executive committee in the afternoon.
If the proposal's second reading is approved by the executive committee in May, the change would take effect for this coming season.
"I think it's a good idea," said Shawnee coach Tim Gushue, whose team would move "down" from the old South Jersey Group 4 to the new South Jersey Group 4.
Group 5 would be created for football only. DuBois said there was strong sentiment for the additional group because it would increase the number of playoff teams in the state from 128 to 160, reduce the number of consolation games, and narrow the size differential among teams competing for the same titles.
"It's another opportunity for more teams and more student athletes," DuBois said.
In another football development, the NJSIAA's advisory committee approved a proposal to repeal the bylaw that allows non-public programs to compete for state championships.
That proposal will be presented to the executive committee in May. If approved by the executive committee, 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 groups - South A and B and North A and B - for the 2013 season.
Under the new format for public schools, Clearview and Triton also would move "down" from the old South Group 4 to the new South Group 4. Pennsauken, which won the South Jersey 4 title last season, would be shifted to Central Jersey Group 4.
The new South Jersey Group 5 would feature the 15 largest programs. South Jersey Group 4 would include the next 15 largest; South Jersey Group 3, the next-15 largest; and so on.
Under the current format, most groups have 19 schools.
"It's really not that much change except for Shawnee," said Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson, whose team went 12-0 in winning the South Jersey Group 3 title last season and looms as the preseason No. 1 team in South Jersey in 2012. "Looks like change for change's sake."
One other significant change involves several Group 1 programs. To balance the groups, traditional South Jersey teams Burlington City, Haddon Township, Maple Shade, and Palmyra would be placed in Central Jersey 1.
Proposed Football Groups
Here are the football groups under the plan in which the NJSIAA creates a Group 5.
South Jersey Group 5
Absegami, Atlantic City, Cherokee, Cherry Hill East, Eastern, Egg Harbor Township, Lenape, Millville, Rancocas Valley, Southern, Toms River East, Toms River North, Vineland, Washington Township, Williamstown.
South Jersey Group 4
Cherry Hill West, Clearview, Cumberland, Hammonton, Kingsway, Lacey, Mainland, Moorestown, Oakcrest, Seneca, Shawnee, Timber Creek, Toms River South, Triton, Winslow Township.
South Jersey Group 3
Bridgeton, Burlington Township, Camden, Central, Delsea, Deptford, Highland, Lower Cape May, Manchester Township, Ocean City, Pemberton, Pinelands, Point Pleasant Boro, Sterling, Woodrow Wilson.
South Jersey Group 2
Barnegat, Bordentown, Buena, Cinnaminson, Collingswood, Delran, Haddon Heights, Haddonfield, Middle Township, Overbrook, Pleasantville, Robbinsville, West Deptford, Willingboro, Woodstown.
South Jersey Group 1
Audubon, Cedar Creek, Clayton, Gateway, Glassboro, Gloucester, Lindenwold, Paulsboro, Penns Grove, Pennsville, Pitman, Salem, Schalick, Wildwood, Woodbury.
Central Jersey 4 would include Pennsauken.
Central Jersey 3 would include Northern Burlington.
Central Jersey 1 would include Burlington City, Florence, Haddon Township, Maple Shade, Palmyra, and Riverside.
- Phil Anastasia
Contact Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, email@example.com,
or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports