NJSIAA Committee Co-Chair: Creating Separate Football Conferences Would Benefit Schools

New rules for high school sports after years of complaints about rampant transferring from school to school of top football and basketball players as though they were free-agents and a conference setup that pits public school teams against private powerhouses like St. Peter’s Prep, Don Bosco and Paramus Catholic. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association — governing body for all high school sports — is proposing conference changes that would separate public from private schools and impose a mandatory 30 days on the bench and a ban from state tournaments of any player who transfers schools without transferring his home address. NJSIAA Special Committee Co-chair Michael Zapicchi told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the proposed regulations do not say that a student can’t transfer but that in terms of their athletic eligibility, they would have to sit out.

“We’re not saying that they can’t transfer. What we’re saying is that, for in terms of their athletic eligibility if they played a varsity sport, they must sit those 30 days,” said Zapicchi. “We’re not even saying they can’t play during the season. After those 30 days, they may play. But they also would not be able to play in the state tournament.”

Zapicchi said that the proposed bylaw change to separate public and non-public football programs in the state is going to be done before the general membership in December. He said the hope is that divisional relationships, schedule matrices, etc. would come from a newly formed conference of non-public schools and not from the NJSIAA.

“I guess the situation is outlined by the people in the state, by the coaches and athletic directors in the state, is that while everybody is concerned and has a great passion for athletics, public schools draw their student athletes from a prescribed geographic area,” Zapicchi said. “Non-public schools may draw their student athletes from the entire state and also from other states as well.”

In South Jersey, non-public schools have pushed back saying that they are happy with the way the conferences are and that the problem with the conferences is a North Jersey problem. Zapicchi said that the problems in South Jersey are not the same as the ones in North Jersey, since the schools are separated but there are schools in South Jersey looking for relief. He said that there are some schools in South Jersey, whose public school counterparts have not defeated them in years and that they want relief. Zapicchi says that he admits that the problem is greater in North Jersey than it is in the central and southern parts of the state.

Whether separating non-public schools into a conference of their own could lead to illegal recruiting practices and violations, Zapicchi said that the committee is looking at recruiting bylaw.

“Well, one of the other things in fact, one of the next things our committee is looking at is the actual recruiting bylaw itself and hope to make it a little clearer so that it can be more stringently enforced across the state so we can prevent some of that from happening,” he said. “Again, sometimes it’s a matter of terminology. What public schools call recruitment, non-public schools call marketing.”