Thoughts on NJSIAA Playoff Expansion Proposal, Update on Klecko, Gesicki

Before I get to my opinion on this new NJSIAA proposal, two quick recruiting updates. Red Bank Catholic junior defensive tackle Josh Klecko added an offer from Rutgers on Thursday, according to RBC coach Jim Portela, to offers from Temple, Old Dominion and UMass.

Also, Southern sophomore wideout Mike Gesicki is starting to generate interest. Coaches from Temple, Delaware and Penn State visited the school during the winter to get a look at Gesicki in person, according to Southern athletic director Chuck Donohue Jr. (By rule, coaches cannot speak directly with sophomores during that time period).

Now, on to the proposal.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Association approved a proposal on first reading Wednesday that would expand the public group classifications to five, which would increase the number of overall state sectional champions crowned to 24.

Essentially, there would be a newly-created Group V for the largest public schools to go along with existing four Groups, starting in the upcoming 2012 season. The proposal is now before the NJSIAA’s program review committee and will be voted on next month at the NJSIAA’s executive committee meeting.

Click here for the full story.

If it goes through, the new classifications would look like this.

Here are my thoughts on this plan:

I don’t want to go crazy because it’s still just high school football, but I couldn’t be more against this plan. Just four months ago, the NJSIAA membership was voting to join the rest of civilization and actually play to overall Group champions in football, which was rejected. Now they want to add four more sections and crown 24 total championships, which is ridiculous. It’s a total step back, in my opinion. Being called a “state champion” in public school football in New Jersey is starting to mean less and less. It’s becoming harder to win division titles for a lot of these teams than to win a state sectional title.

This reeks of two things:

1) The “everybody gets a medal” mentality that is pervading youth sports. This means more teams, including teams with losing records, can make the playoffs, more teams get a trophy and all that, so that no one’s feelings are hurt when they don’t get to be in the playoffs. In the Star-Ledger story on the proposal, NJSIAA associate director Jack Dubois said that many coaches are “not thrilled” to play in consolation games. Here’s a novel concept: WIN MORE GAMES AND MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. Then you won’t have to play in a consolation game. This is a reason why I think the proposal will pass because athletic directors can go back to their schools and tell them they will have a better chance for their teams to make the postseason or win something, even if it what they are winning is cheapened. The main job of most ADs is to get the complainers off their back, and this would help in that instance, so they are going to vote for it.

2) Another money grab by the NJSIAA. Ever since this whole Burzichelli business hit the fan over ticket prices, the NJSIAA claims that it is struggling to make money. With more teams in the playoffs, that means more entry fees and more sites to sell programs, T-shirts and other assorted swag. The more teams in the postseason, the more money that comes in.

If it does get passed, one effect will be that winning a state sectional title won’t be all that much to write home about any more. (Some of them don’t mean a whole lot now). Most of these proposed sections will have about 15-16 teams in them. Most divisions in a given conference have 6-8 teams in them. That means a state section has barely double the amount of teams that a division has, so it’s not like you’re beating a large region of teams to win a state title. From a purely selfish perspective, it also won’t be any easier trying to find a way to give media coverage to a whole other set of games in Group V every year, either. Some games might just get blown off. See you in the finals.

I wonder if the Shore Conference can just break off from all this. Just have a Shore Conference football tournament instead. It will be one packed house after another, and winning it would really mean something as opposed to breezing through some mediocre sectional bracket.

If the proposal does happen, here is a look at the brackets from a purely football perspective and who might be the winners and losers in the new realignments.

Central Jersey

Group V – This is pretty similar to the current CJ Group IV, so there wouldn’t be any major change.

Group IV – This is similar to the current CJ III, just with Middletown North and Colts Neck thrown in. One addition is Pennsauken, which won the South Jersey Group IV title last year and would certainly be a threat to the usual suspects like Middletown South, Neptune, Freehold, and Wall. Colts Neck would also be a new threat among these teams.

Group III – This is like the current CJ II except for two major differences – no Rumson-Fair Haven, which would be in Group II, and the addition of Ocean. Allentown and the Hamilton schools would also avoid the likes of Neptune, Middletown South, etc. Ocean would also not have to tangle with those teams, but still would have to deal with usual tough teams like Manasquan, Matawan, Long Branch and Raritan. This would be a very tough bracket. Winning it might actually mean something.

Group II – If you’re a Rumson fan, you’re definitely not complaining about this new proposal. The Bulldogs would no longer have to deal with the Matawans, Manasquans and Long Branches of the world. They could dominate this bracket. The main threat would probably be bitter rival Shore, which would be moved up from playing Group I schools, putting the Blue Devils in a harder bracket than the CJ I section they are in now. Red Bank would also be a big factor with the team it has coming back this year, and Keyport is always dangerous but has not fared very well whenever it has been in a Group II bracket.

Group I – This would continue to be Asbury Park’s playground, although Point Beach will be a serious threat this fall.

South Jersey

Group V – Toms River North, Toms River East and Southern would still be stuck dealing with every South Jersey heavyweight in sight in this bracket, which is similar to the current SJ IV bracket, so no breaks for any of those teams.

Group IV – This is similar to the current SJ III, so Lacey would face the usual array of suspects like Hammonton, Shawnee and Timber Creek.

Group III – This is a good spot for teams like Manchester, Pinelands and Central because it will give them a better chance to make the playoffs every year. Delsea could have a field day in this bracket after usually being in the current SJ III. Point Boro would essentially move up a weight class, but that might not be the worst thing because it gets them away from West Deptford and Haddonfield in the current SJ II.

Group II – It would be status quo for Barnegat, which would still have to deal with West Deptford and Co.

Group I – No Shore teams in this bracket.


One Response to “Thoughts on NJSIAA Playoff Expansion Proposal, Update on Klecko, Gesicki”

  1. NJSIAA Votes to Expand Public School Playoffs « Says:

    […] Here are my feelings on this and how it will affect Shore Conference teams. […]

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