The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), the governing body for high school sports in the state, is proposing a major realignment of athletic conferences designed to foster competitive equity.
The proposal would reorganize what are currently 31 conferences into six “super” conferences that would involve more than 200 high schools in northern and parts of central New Jersey. There would be a seventh football conference for football teams from two of the super conferences.
Schools in Monmouth, Middlesex and Mercer counties and southern New Jersey are not affected by the plan.
“School boards should pay attention to this,” explained Bruce K. Smith, president of the Hackettstown school board and an NJSBA representative to the NJSIAA Executive Committee. “It could affect team travel and the expenses related to travel, the competitive balance between teams, and some of the traditional rivalries schools have. For any individual school, it could be a positive or a negative thing, but it’s important for board members to talk with their superintendents and their athletic directors, so a district-wide position can be formulated.”
The plan was triggered by dissatisfaction with competitive balance between schools, particularly in the football programs in public and non-public schools in the northern part of the state. Last December, a measure that would have separated public and private schools in regular season competition failed by just a handful of votes. Soon after, NJSIAA set up a committee of 34 members to discuss realignments.
Realigned Conferences The plan would divide the super conferences geographically, and split them into divisions based on enrollment. A flexible schedule program would allow schools to choose more of their opponents, rather than being locked into division schedules.
“The realignment plan has been sent to all superintendents and athletic directors,” said Steven J. Timko, executive director of NJSIAA. “We’re hoping to achieve balance, enrollment-wise and geographically. The old alignment hasn’t been looked at in 27 years; enrollments have changed and schools that did not have strong programs then do have them now.”
The report was released on Aug. 11. School districts had until Sept. 2 to submit feedback. At a Sept. 10 meeting, the organization’s Executive Committee will discuss the plan and vote on the proposal. If approved, it will go to a vote by the entire membership in December and be enacted beginning with the 2009-2010 school year.