Public C? Say it ain’t so

May 17, 2017 on 10:12 am | In analysis, breaking news | 2 Comments

This blog was dormant in 2016-17 as I focused on fatherhood and NBA broadcasting, but I did manage to keep standings and team-by-team schedules updated in a single Excel file made available online, so I was glad to have some part to play in the New Jersey hockey season and continue to maintain records going back at least 15 years.

I don’t know exactly what the future holds for this site or my involvement, but I thought I would put together a post on the biggest news in high school hockey right now:
The NJSIAA will be adding a third public-school tournament in 2017-18 on a one-year, trial basis.

I had heard rumblings that this might come up, but it all seemed to come together pretty suddenly. Most coaches I talked to didn’t even know about it. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but here’s the official paper trail:

March 22
The NJSIAA Ice Hockey Committee holds its postseason meeting. In addition to NJSIAA Assistant Director Jack DuBois, the committee consists of tournament director and Fair Lawn athletic director Cory Robinson, Shore Conference representative and Brick Memorial head coach Chip Bruce, Morris County representative and former Chatham head coach Harvey Cohen, athletic director representative and Morris Knolls athletic director Ken Mullen, CVC representative and Hightstown athletic director Jim Peto, and referee representatives Jack Lally (referee assignor) and Bob Triebe (state rules interpreter). These are hockey people, if not one that is super representative of state hockey coaches. On the agenda is a proposal to establish a third public group classification (Public C) as a one-year pilot program. It is approved 7-0. (NJSIAA minutes)

April 5
The NJSIAA Executive Committee holds its monthly, public meeting. Two major hockey issues are presented:

  1. The proposal to allow ice hockey co-ops to be formed by three schools, provided they do not roster more than 30 players, passes its first reading.
  2. The proposal to create a third public ice hockey group passes its first reading unanimously. The goal is to create three equal groups of 32-33 teams, more consistent with groupings in other sports, give “another school a championship opportunity,” and to eliminate “the out-bracket game.” (NJSIAA minutes)

April 6
The NJSIAA League & Conference Committee holds its monthly meeting, and Jack DuBois provides the update that the ice hockey committee is considering adding a third group and it was approved at the executive committee’s first reading. (NJSIAA minutes)

May 3
The NJSIAA Executive Committee holds its monthly, very public meeting, with most of it taken up by discussion of the competing proposals to revamp the NJSIAA football playoffs.

Without any discussion, the ice hockey proposal is approved:

So there you have it. Three public groups in 2017-18, and they will almost certainly be split evenly from the state’s public-school ice hockey programs, which currently number 97, although the proposal for Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley to merge could reduce that number to 96, and given the trend toward co-ops and now tri-ops, it could keep decreasing.

I have mixed feelings about this. I think in 5 years, it will seem completely normal to us, just like first having separate public/private tournaments and later splitting into Public A and Public B seem completely normal to us now. But I’m not so sure this is a good idea.

Every time I try to argue against the split, I find that the current fields thrown up in A / B / C are fairly reasonable. Schools with NJSIAA enrollment figures (3 years’ worth of students) of less than 1,000 are in their own group (Public C), while what we have thought of as the bigger schools are now split into two groups. I don’t find this necessary, but I don’t hate it. Morris Knolls and Randolph were coming perilously close to Public B, and that would just kind of defeat the purpose. So for right now, the split might make sense.

But look at the direction things are going. More and more programs are becoming co-ops, in many cases just to stay alive. Co-ops, as a merger of 2-3 schools, will naturally have larger enrollments. So Public A is going to get weaker and weaker as more of the slots are taken up by co-op programs. Pretty soon there will only be about 10 stand-alone programs in Public A, which will hand a state championship to Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Howell, Hunterdon Central, Toms River North, or Watchung Hills (all with enrollment figures of 1,600+).

Yet there is a good chance that there will be at least 31 public co-op programs in 2017-18. That’s roughly the same size the NJSIAA is targetting for each group with this new rule. So why not make co-op a separate category?

If we’re going to separate private and public schools because they’re not on a level playing field, this follows the same pattern. If a team pulls players from multiple schools, it should only compete for a championship against teams pulling players from multiple schools. (The counter-argument being that most co-ops would be broken up if they started competing for state championships, as co-ops are typically approved for schools which are struggling to field a team).

I ran the numbers, and if you split co-ops into their own group, the dividing line for enrollment figure would only go from 1,000 (between Public B/C) to 1,050 (between Public A/B). So it wouldn’t affect the bottom group that much. Last year’s tournaments would have had 26 teams in Public A, 22 in Public B, and 12 in Public Co-Op. Although there might have been a different scheduling and at-large considerations that would have brought Public Co-Op to 16 teams. It’s also possibel that private co-op teams could be allowed into the Public Co-Op tournament. Which would ruin the cool Public C moniker, but that’s OK!

Do I love that co-op programs will be able to say they were state champions and receive the same trophy as a typical, stand-alone program? Not really. Is it possible that adding a co-op state championship will encourage more schools to co-op unnecessarily? Very much so.

But I do think splitting co-ops into their own state tournament would be pro-active (anticipating more co-ops) rather than reactionary (our tournaments got too big, so let’s add another one!), and I do think it would put teams on an even playing field, both lessons I want to see in high school sports.

What do you think? Weigh in via the comments section!

By the way, there’s almost no chance it will happen that way in 2017-18. Here’s how I expect Public A / B / C to break down:

Of the 32 teams that would go into what I would expect to be a 32-team Public A group, 16 are co-ops (17 if the Wayne programs merge). Programs include Bridgewater-Raritan, Hunterdon Central, Hillsborough, Howell, Watchung Hills, Freehold Township, Southern Regional, Montclair, Robbinsville / Allentown, Sparta / Jefferson. 17 of the 32 made a state tournament last year.

The 32 teams that would make up Public B include 11 co-ops (12 if the Wayne programs merge and move up to Public A). We’re talking Ridge, Westfield, Livingston, Morris Knolls, Morristown, Montgomery, Randolph, Roxbury, both Middletown North and Middletown South, Jackson Memorial, Princeton, and probably Northern Highlands. 25 of the 32 made a state tournament last year.

The 33 teams that would make up Public C (32 if the Wayne programs merge) all have NJSIAA enrollment figures (3 years’ worth of students) of less than 1,000 and include only three co-ops. They include Brick Township, Chatham, Ramsey, Summit, Glen Rock, Hopewell Valley, Indian Hills, Kinnelon, Lakeland, Madison, Mahwah, Mendham, Rumson-Fair Haven, Wall. 18 of 33 made a state tournament last year.

Suggested seedings, 2016 – Public B

February 15, 2016 on 12:02 pm | In analysis | No Comments

Just about every year, I take my own swing at seeding the NJSIAA Tournaments. These are not predictions, but suggestions; how I would seed the bracket, not how I think the seeding committee will.

For my seedings, I start with division standings, since finishing ahead of another team in a double-round-robin regular season is usually a very good indicator. Then I look at teams’ non-league results and try to compare them against each other. Finally, I try to avoid matchups that pit division rivals whenever possible.

Private | Public A | Public B

Let me just say that after the top four, these rankings were extremely difficult all the way down into the 20s, and there will always be several logical inconsistencies because the results are so convoluted.

Here are my suggested seedings for this year’s Public B state tournament: Continue reading Suggested seedings, 2016 – Public B…

Suggested seedings, 2016 – Public A

February 15, 2016 on 12:01 pm | In analysis | No Comments

Just about every year, I take my own swing at seeding the NJSIAA Tournaments. These are not predictions, but suggestions; how I would seed the bracket, not how I think the seeding committee will.

For my seedings, I start with division standings, since finishing ahead of another team in a double-round-robin regular season is usually a very good indicator. Then I look at teams’ non-league results and try to compare them against each other. Finally, I try to avoid matchups that pit division rivals whenever possible.

Private | Public A | Public B

Here are my suggested seedings for this year’s Public A state tournament: Continue reading Suggested seedings, 2016 – Public A…

Suggested seedings, 2016 – NJSIAA Private

February 15, 2016 on 12:00 pm | In analysis | 1 Comment

Just about every year, I take my own swing at seeding the NJSIAA Tournaments. These are not predictions, but suggestions; how I would seed the bracket, not how I think the seeding committee will.

For my seedings, I start with division standings, since finishing ahead of another team in a double-round-robin regular season is usually a very good indicator. Then I look at teams’ non-league results and try to compare them against each other. Finally, I try to avoid matchups that pit division rivals whenever possible.

Private | Public A | Public B

Here are my suggested seedings for this year’s private state tournament: Continue reading Suggested seedings, 2016 – NJSIAA Private…

2016 NJSIAA Tournament automatic qualifiers

February 8, 2016 on 11:53 pm | In analysis | 1 Comment

I’ve obviously been derelict in my blogging duties this year, but it’s 11:45 pm on the deadline day for teams to reach a .500 record to qualify automatically for the NJSIAA tournaments. Seeding will come out in the middle of next week.

Here’s who’s definitely in and who still has a chance. Continue reading 2016 NJSIAA Tournament automatic qualifiers…

JY20: Back to the ice and some early storylines

December 8, 2015 on 10:26 am | In analysis, JY20 | No Comments

I really meant to have more written by now. I was supposed to be doing at least two blog items per week, a mix of covering this year’s hockey season, looking at general issues throughout our game, and occasionally reflecting back on my experiences, stories, and memories from New Jersey high school hockey.

But, as if to emphasize why my days doing this may be numbered, I just haven’t found the time. Continue reading JY20: Back to the ice and some early storylines…

JY20: How the season is organized

November 27, 2015 on 9:32 am | In analysis, JY20 | 2 Comments

With the high school hockey season about to start, it’s important to understand how the season works. Most of you already have a good idea, of course, but it’s worth repeating anyway.

There are 433 high schools that compete in sports as members of the NJSIAA (New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association). In ice hockey, however, there are 124 teams, plus four private schools that are not NJSIAA members, for 128 total New Jersey teams. Continue reading JY20: How the season is organized…

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