For over 20 years the non-public football teams around New Jersey have played down to four, and most recently three, state group champions.

That's all about to change.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's Executive Committee approved a proposal Wednesday to alter the current system and align the non-public playoff format with that of the public schools. The proposal, created by the West Jersey Football League, eliminates the current statewide groups based on school size and replaces them with divisions divided into geographic sections.

Currently there are Group IV, Group III and Group II brackets for non-public football teams. Since 1993 this has been the format, and the winners are essentially group champions, which, as the Philadelphia Inquirer's Phil Anastasia notes, is apparently a violation of the NJSIAA's constitution. The change would have non-public football teams instead play down to sectional champions, just like the public schools. Under the new proposal there would be Non-Public North A and B and Non-Public South A and B divisions for the state playoffs.

Schools north of the Raritan River would be classified into either North A or B divisions based on school size, while schools south of the Raritan River would be slotted in either South A or B. If the new format is approved, New Jersey will crown 24 sectional champions annually.

Locally, this means Red Bank Catholic, St. John Vianney, Mater Dei Prep and Donovan Catholic would never have to play North Jersey powers Don Bosco Prep, Bergen Catholic, St. Peter's Prep, St. Joseph Regional in Montvale, Paramus Catholic, or Pope John, Delbarton, Seton Hall Prep and DePaul, among others, in the playoffs. This obviously opens the door for the Shore Conference's non-public football programs, which have won just three combined sectional titles since the playoff format begin in 1974, to have a great chance at winning championships.

The proposal needs to be approved as a bylaw change in June by the Executive Committee, and if it does the changes will go into effect for the 2016 football season. If the proposal is not approved by a two-thirds vote it will be voted on by the NJSIAA membership at the annual meeting in December.


Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.