By Erin Delmore
Fall is in the air and football’s on the TV, especially in households across New Jersey. But while some communities are getting ready to rally for their high school teams, others are staying out in the cold.
“There is that demand sometimes from alumni or people in the community, ‘Hey, will CBA ever get football?'” said Christian Brothers Academy Athletic Director Vito Chiaravalloti.
Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft isn’t alone. An NJTV News investigation showed more than half of New Jersey’s 60 Catholic high schools don’t have football programs. Of course, some are all-girls schools, but the trend still holds, more so in North Jersey than South.
“The only school I know that doesn’t have football is CBA. So all the schools that I know through the Catholic schools, everybody has football,” said St. John Vianney High School Head Football Coach Derek Sininsky.
“I was a student here, so I graduated in ’99 and I remember when we asked this question freshman year, ‘Oh, CBA does’t have football,’ the rumors start, right? ‘Oh, it’s because a kid broke his neck, or the insurance is too high, or…’ There were so many rumors,” Chiaravalloti said.
In CBA’s case, it’s a question of interest. The school had a thriving intramural program in the 1960s and ’70s.
“In fact we dedicated a hall to Vince Lombardi, had him on campus,” Chiaravalloti said.
It drew some 300 kids to 18 different teams.
“And the thought was, if you went interscholastic, that would limit the number of students staying after school participating to about 100,” Chiaravalloti said.
But the numbers dwindled in the early ’80s. We asked, what would it take to bring football back?
“Enrollment is always an issue, especially when you’re dealing with Catholic schools. So I think that if we felt like it could draw a student to our building, to our campus that otherwise would not have been interested, you know, I think that the conversation could be restarted,” Chiaravalloti said.
That’s the case seven miles away, at St. John Vianney High School.
“That kind of gets the spirit going up, of the school and the community and you know we feel that helps with enrollment. And our kids just want to be part of, not a football school, but a school that does have football,” Sininsky said.
Both coaches said it’s a tough time to talk about starting a football program — as research on traumatic brain injury and concussions dominate national headlines. Both men said research on safety and regulations — especially at the high school level — is key.