ROBBINSVILLE, NJ – A major overhaul to the state’s high school football playoffs and seeding system was approved by the NJSIAA’s member schools at their annual business meeting on Monday.
Public school football programs throughout the state will play to a two-champion per group tournament, which amounts to one game more than what is currently played.
Traditional “section champions” will be crowned during the week prior to Thanksgiving at neutral sites throughout the state, however, the winners of each section will play in designated “bowl games” two weeks later.
The non-public tournament will also change. The three non-public groups will have 12-team tournaments, with the top six seeds getting a bye to the second round and will play to a group champion.
The proposal is set to take effect for the 2018 season pending approval from the NJSIAA’s football leagues and conferences committee, football committee and executive committee. According to sources, all three committees are expected to approve the proposal.
"I think that the new proposal will be a good one for the state," Sparta High School Athletic Director Steve Stoner said.
According to the approved proposal, titled the “NJ United Playoff Proposal” and submitted by the North Jersey Super Football Conference and a coalition of central and south Jersey schools, the regular season schedule will be condensed by one week to accommodate the extra playoff game.
Teams will play a minimum of eight regular season games across nine weeks, each counting towards the team’s power point totals. The season will officially start with an optional Week 0. Should a team opt to not play a Week 0 game, they will have to play eight straight games from Week 1 through Week 8.
The NJSIAA State Tournament will begin on Nov. 2, with the section finals occurring the weekend of Nov. 16 at neutral sites across the state.
After a week off to preserve the traditional Thanksgiving rivalry games, the 20 public school section champions will play in bowl games against to cut the list down to 10 bowl winners.
On top of the scheduling and playoff format, member schools also voted to allow the NJSIAA to research ways to improve the power-point system, though no recommendations were formally suggested in the approved proposal.
New Jersey is currently the only state in the country that does not play to one champion per school size. According to TAPinto sources, that could change in the next few years if this scheduling format is deemed a success. However, changes to the NJSIAA’s constitution and by-laws would have to be made, as they currently prevent group champions in football.
"Football is one of the only programs that does not work its way down to a group champ," Stoner said. "Being able to call yourself 1 of 4 group champs on top of sectional champ will be a nice statement for players to make at the end of the season."
Jennifer Dericks contributed to this article.