NJ HS Football Playoff Proposal Includes Bowl Games

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The Philadelphia Inquirer


"Bowl games" that will bring New Jersey one step shy of state championships for public-school football are among the highlights of a new proposal to change the format of the sport, starting in the 2018 season.

New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association officials and backers of the proposal have been making the rounds at sectional meetings around the state this week, presenting the plan to coaches, athletic directors and principals.

The South sectional meeting is next Wednesday at Washington Township. The NJSIAA's general membership will vote on the proposal Dec. 4.

If a majority of schools in attendance that morning at the Pines Manor in Edison vote in favor of the change, the new format will begin in 2018. If the proposal is voted down, the current system will stay in place.

West Jersey Football League president Bud Kowal, the athletic director at Ewing High School, is one of the authors of the proposal, which is a combination of two competing plans that were created in the spring — one by representatives of the WJFL as well as the Shore, Greater Middlesex, and Mid-State 38 conferences, and one by representatives of the North Jersey Super Football Conference.

"We really felt like this was a good merger of the two proposals," Kowal said. "We believe this is a good proposal for schools in the South."

Here are some of the highlights of the proposal:

The system would bring public football to the brink of a true state championship, long a goal of many involved in the sport.

Because of the eight-game regular season, the "bowl games" would be the 12th game of the season, same as the sectional title games under the current format.

That could alleviate concerns that a tournament that ends in a state championship would involve too many games and put athletes at further risk of injury, since just 10 public-school teams would participate in a 13th game if the format is changed to match up the "bowl game" winners in the future.

But Kowal said the best thing about the proposal is the format creates opportunities for competitive games late in the season for the programs that don't make the playoffs.

"I think it has a really good chance," of passing, Kowal said. "It's not just a playoff proposal. It creates a dynamic for lesser programs in need of help. There are a lot more at-risk and in-need programs than there are programs that really stand a legitimate shot of winning a sectional championship and playing in a 'bowl' game.

"This proposal addresses that. Those teams get an opportunity to play two games, if they chose, against similar programs. If they're a young team, they can lay the groundwork for the next year or if they have a good group of seniors it's a chance for them to play their last games with a real chance to win.

"It's a positive thing for everybody."

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September 21, 2017


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