School athletic administrators around New Jersey continue to search for a method of restructuring the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s football playoff system, and the latest progress in changing the format saw two proposals take the first step toward approval on Wednesday.

One plan called the “Coalition Football Playoff Proposal”, which was presented by Ewing athletic director Bud Kowal and Marlboro athletic director Dave Ryden, seeks to add an extra playoff round, shorten the regular season by one game and eliminate the current power point system in favor of using a power ranking algorithm to seed teams for the postseason. The algorithm would include criteria such as strength of schedule, quality wins and overall record, according to New Jersey Advance Media. 

MaxPreps uses an algorithm to rank its football teams on a national scale. does the same to rank lacrosse teams by state, region and nationally, and the NJSIAA currently uses the Laxpower rankings to seed the boys and girls state lacrosse tournaments

Under this proposal the regular season would be shorted to eight conference games with three different options for teams that play Thanksgiving games or want to have a bye week. The first round of the playoffs would be moved up a week to Week 9 and the sectional semifinals would be played in Week 10. The sectional championship games would be played in Week 11 with Thanksgiving to follow in Week 12. The added round is essentially a state semifinal game in Week 13 pitting the North 1 champion against the North 2 champion and the Central champion against the South champion.

Article IX of the NJSIAA constitution states “No state championships shall be declared in football”, but this proposal brings the state one step closer to potentially getting that rule abolished and paving the way for the Garden State to finally decrease the number of teams winning “state championships” each fall. New Jersey is currently the only state in the U.S. that does not play down to true state champions based on school size. Ironically, the NJSIAA is technically already in violation of this rule since non-public football programs are crowned state champions in Groups II, III and IV with no geographical separation into sections.

Additionally, teams not qualifying for the playoffs will get two additional games after the regular season to bring their final total to 10 games, the same as in the current system. Non-playoff teams will play each other in regional crossover games during Week 9. Teams that lose that week will be paired against one another for Week 10. Teams that win their consolation game will face teams that lost in the first round of the playoffs to ensure every team plays at least 10 games.

The second proposal that passed the NJSIAA’s Advisory Committee on Wednesday has a more drastic restructuring in mind. The plan submitted by Westwood athletic director Dan Vivino and River Dell athletic director Denis Nelson, whose schools both play in the North Jersey Super Football Conference, would eliminate the Central Jersey sections and increase playoff qualifiers to 12 teams in each section. It would also divide teams into eight groups statewide instead of the current number of five. New Jersey currently crowns 20 public school sectional champions. Under the North Jersey proposal this number would decrease to 16 because of the elimination of the Central Jersey sections.

The format of the playoffs would give the top four seeds first-round byes. The remaining eight teams would be paired 5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9.

The non-public football playoffs are not effected by either proposal

Both plans will be voted on by the NJSIAA Executive Committee in May. If either or both pass they will go before a vote of the NJSIAA’s general membership in December to be implemented for the 2018 season.


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