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Dec. 9, 2015 — A vote on two paths

Monday afternoon, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to separate out the 37 non-public schools that play football and wrestle in public-school leagues — not only for the playoffs, but for the regular season as well.

No longer would there be local derbies, such as Lawrence (N.J.) vs. Lawrence Notre Dame (N.J.) or Delran vs. Delran Holy Cross (N.J.), but there would be a complete wall of separation between public and non-public schools in both football and wrestling.

The NJSIAA, having previously separated public and non-public competition in the state tournament for soccer, field hockey, and other sports, has gone a step beyond with this week’s vote, literally remaking high-school sports in the state.

This, I think, creates an interesting problem, one which is summed up by a quote from Tony Mitchell, the athletic director of Haddonfield Paul VI (N.J.).

“Why,” asked Mitchell, “would we want to stay with the NJSIAA when they just voted to throw us out?”

And if the 37 schools do go somewhere else, where would they go? And would they take all other sports with them?

That’s an interesting thought experiment, given the options. You see, there is a separate group of schools in the Garden State called the New Jersey Independent Schools Athletic Association (NJISAA). It holds championship events in many sports, although not in football.

In a number of athletic endeavors, NJISAA-affiliated schools have achieved levels of play which dwarf their local (and sometimes, national) competition. The boys’ soccer team from Newark St. Benedict’s (N.J.), the swim teams from Hightstown Peddie School (N.J.), the wrestling team from Martinsville Pingry (N.J.), and the boys’ ice hockey team out of The Lawrenceville (N.J.) School are so much better than everybody else that the local newspapers don’t bother ranking them as No. 1; the weekly team rankings are for everybody else.

Question is, would the 37 non-public schools that play football (and some of which wrestle) be able to compete with and alongside these NJISAA schools in all of these endeavors?

And, most importantly, are the non-public schools going to adopt the same rules (or lack thereof) as their prep-school counterparts? I think it would be interesting to see if, say, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) got an extra few days of summer training, played four games a week, and scheduled more out-of-state opponents in both field hockey and girls’ lacrosse.

Friends, it could happen. This will be an interesting situation going forward, and I’ll be interested to see if a public/private split happens elsewhere, such as Pennsylvania and Delaware.

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