While New Jersey high school football teams will begin practicing on July 13, but regular season games won’t begin until October 2.
On Friday, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced revisions to its Return to Play plan. For now, high school football teams will begin working-out on July 13 and continue until August 28, which would have been Week 0 of the regular season. Last month, the NJSIAA cancelled Week 0 games.
Phase 1 of the summer workout period, with limited contact and small groups
Beginning August 29th, teams will go into a two-week hiatus during which only virtual meetings will be permitted, and only related to in-season (Fall) sports. Fall practice will start on 14th, followed by the regular season starting October 2nd.
“High school sports are school-based, so we need to first ensure all is in order with the opening of our schools,” says Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA chief operating officer. “After that, we can begin playing sports. To be clear, our goal is to return to play – while making sure that health, safety, emotional well-being, and academics come first. We have a different model than some other types of programs that are far smaller in scale and operate independently. We have a duty to ensure that New Jersey’s schools and their more than 1.5 million students and teachers, including 283,000 high school student-athletes, can first return to school and their academics, and then participate in extracurricular activities like sports.”
New Jersey’s 6-game regular season will end on November 7 and be followed by a shortened postseason that will run from November 13th through the 22nd.
Schools that do not participate in the postseason may continue to play until November 22, with the exception being Thanksgiving football games. These are permissible after November 22, at each school’s discretion. No other fall sports competition will be allowed after November 22.
As part of its media release, the NJSIAA said the following about the playoffs:
“The NJSIAA will strive to open postseason participation to any team wishing to participate. As with the regular season, the postseason will remain local, meaning a sectional championship or less. A seeding committee will be used by every sport in order to remove the reliance on power points, standings, and overall record.”NJSIAA
Denis Nelson, a member of the NJSIAA COVID-19 Sports Advisory Task Force and the athletic director at River Dell Regional High School said, “Removing the possibility for statewide, postseason competition is intended to convey the specific message that the fall season is specifically about opportunity, engagement, and participation. It is not about winning championships. From a health perspective, it’s appropriate to keep sports as local as possible. From a competition perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial but different impact on every school district. As a result, the playing field won’t be level this year, so it’s only fair not to crown statewide champions.”
The state is also “strongly” encouraging leagues and conferences to revise schedules to emphasize local competition and minimize the number of different schools that come in contact with each other.
“By reducing the length of the season, student-athletes will have the opportunity for participation – but will also have more time to focus on their academic requirements,” says NJSIAA President Steve Shohfi. “A reduced season will naturally lead to a reduced amount of competition, which minimizes the risk of infection through exposure to many different teams and schools.”