Only time will tell if Monday was indeed a historic day in terms of high school sports in New Jersey.

Member schools voted overwhelmingly during the annual meeting of the NJSIAA (New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association) to pass two proposals which if adopted would lead to significant changes in football and wrestling. To some it also opens the door for further change down the road which could impact all sports.

The main issue here is the separating of public and non-public (or parochial) schools and in the case of football yesterday’s vote is a game-changer. The proposal that passed by a vote of 215-128 would force the state’s 37 football playing non-public high schools to have their own conference beginning next season.

Locally that would mean Red Bank Catholic, St. John Vianney, Donovan Catholic and Mater Dei Prep would no longer compete in Shore Conference divisions. They would likely be placed in divisions with other non-public schools based on strength of program, enrollment and other factors and are scheduled to meet later this week to begin discussions on just how to set up their own conference.

They can play public schools as part of non-conference schedules but obviously that will be limited and for schools like Donovan Catholic they will be spending a lot more time on buses as they travel the state.

The root of all of this involves five schools in the Big North Conference: Don Bosco, Bergen Catholic, St. Joseph’s of Montvale, DePaul & Paramus Catholic.
They have built powerhouse programs and dominated many of the public schools in that area who do not want to have to play them as they feel they’re not on an even playing field. They are probably correct but some question why the problems of a few should lead to such radical change state-wide.

To be honest there are a fair share of public schools in the Shore Conference who likely voted in favor of the proposal to get away from having to play RBC and St. John Vianney.

Time does not allow me to detail the changes in wrestling which impacts the district and region tournaments beginning in 2017 except to say that the non-public wrestlers will be separated here as well until they get to Atlantic City. You can get those details and more at shoresportsnetwork.com

One more thing. The proposals passed yesterday need to be approved by the state Education Commissioner and there is no guarantee of that.  Plus I would expect legal challenges as well. My gut feeling is the dramatic football changes will not begin next fall. This one may drag out for a while.