Phil Anastasia: NJSIAA avoids doing the right thing by Sandy

Posted: November 01, 2012

The football players from Atlantic City High School won't be playing this weekend.

So it would be only fair if the football players from Williamstown weren't playing this weekend, either.

Absegami won't play football this weekend.

So Eastern shouldn't play football, either.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association had a chance to level the playing field for every football team in the state following Sandy's devastating impact.

The governing body for high school sports in the state that took the brunt of nature's fury could have eliminated a lot of confusion and consternation and made a major statement about the proper place for these games in our storm-ravaged society.

The NJSIAA could have taken control of a scrambled situation with one blanket statement: No football this weekend. Every school and every team and every coach and every player and every fan take a step back and a deep breath and focus on what's important: recovery.

NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said he didn't want to do that. Timko said Wednesday that he's reluctant to use his power or his organization's influence to dictate to member schools.

"I don't want to be in a position where I'm telling schools what to do," Timko said.

That's understandable. Timko is an administrator in the most home-rule-happy state in the union. He knows better than to start issuing mandates to athletic programs on a regular basis.

So Timko and the other directors at the NJSIAA came up with a compromise. They pushed back the start of the state tournament by a week, giving teams until Nov. 10 to play the eighth game on the schedule.

That move - and others involving similar extensions of the tournaments in other sports - was made in deference to the struggles that schools such as Atlantic City and Absegami and Ocean City and dozens and dozens of others are having in trying to return to normalcy.

But the NJSIAA also ruled that schools could play football this weekend if both teams agreed to the date and time - and that's exactly what is going to happen.

Williamstown will play Kingsway and Eastern will play Lenape, both on Saturday. Lots of other schools that are smack dab in the middle of their playoff races also will play this weekend.

And that's not fair.

Eastern and Williamstown both will have a bye next weekend. They will be able to rest and also to scout Atlantic City at Absegami, a game likely to be played Nov. 9.

Eastern could play Absegami the next week in the first round of the South Jersey Group 5 tourney. Or Williamstown could play Atlantic City. Or vice versa.

That could happen in other groups, as well, with teams playing this weekend having a bye next weekend and a big advantage over teams that were forced to move their eighth regular-season game to next weekend.

If all the teams were off this weekend, then every program would be dealing with the same schedule in preparing for the playoffs. It would be a better situation.

But even more importantly, if all the teams were off this weekend, it would have sent a great message to Atlantic City and Absegami and all those other schools that simply aren't ready to play while the athletes and coaches and fans try to get their lives back in order.

It would have been a show of solidarity.

It would have sent a message: New Jersey football is a brotherhood.


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

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