The membership of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the organization that governs high school athletics, voted overwhelmingly on December 7 to split non-public and public school football programs into separate conferences.

At the same time, the NJSIAA rejected a proposed amendment to its bylaws that would have placed further restrictions on varsity athletes who transfer to new schools.

NJSIAA consists of 433 accredited public and non-public high schools. Its decisions have a direct impact on interscholastic sports in the 288 public school districts that operate secondary schools.

Football Split “The football proposal, which passed 215-128 with two abstentions, would remove all non-public schools from  their current conference for football only and force them to create a statewide conference of their own, with full schedules,” reported NorthJersey.com.

The change is planned for the fall of 2016. However, NJSIAA bylaws amendments require the approval of the state Commissioner of Education before going into effect.

At issue has been the uneven competition between public high school programs and those of half a dozen northern New Jersey non-public schools that operate so-called “powerhouse” football programs and recruit players from throughout the state.

Under the proposal, public and non-public schools could still agree to schedule non-conference games.

Wrestling Tournament According to news accounts, the NJSIAA membership also voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bylaws amendment to separate public and non-public school wrestlers at the district and regional level of the state tournament. All non-public school wrestlers would compete in four districts and one statewide region; public school wrestlers would participate in 28 district and seven regional programs.

Transfer In addition, the NJSIAA membership overwhelming rejected a proposal to further limit play by athletes who transfer to or from “open enrollment” schools, defined as public schools that participate in the inter-district choice program or which accept non-resident students on a tuition basis, and non-public schools.

“Under the terms of the proposal, a student athlete who participated in varsity sport and who transferred to or from an ‘open’ enrollment school would have been required to sit out 30 days of the next varsity season—as well as the state tournament in that season,” reported the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That would have been the case even if the athlete was able to show a bona fide change of address.”

Currently, an athlete who transfers has to sit out, or refrain from participating, for 30 days in sports in which they participated as a varsity athlete unless they can show a bona fide change of address in which case they are immediately eligible to play, according to the Inquirer. That rule remains in effect.

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