NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The executive committee of the organization that governs New Jersey high school athletes has approved a proposal to drastically reduce contact in football before and during the season.
The proposal passed Wednesday by the executive committee of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association reduces in-season full contact from 90 minutes per week to 15 and preseason full contact from unlimited to 6 hours total, including scrimmages. There will be no change in the existing ban on full contact in the spring and summer.
The amount of contact is less than mandates or recommendations by the NFL, NCAA, Ivy League, USA Football, Pop Warner or any other football jurisdiction, the NJSIAA said in a news release.
The limits won't take effect until the executive committee has a second reading of the proposal in April and votes again. The vote on Wednesday was unanimous.
The new regulations were proposed in July by the New Jersey Football Coaches Association and Practice Like Pros, a national movement to reduce injury in high school football. The NJSIAA's sports medical advisory committee approved it in October and sent it to the executive committee.
A similar contact-limits proposal is moving forward in Michigan. The representative council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association will consider it in May. If approved, full-contact limits in Michigan would be similar to many of the new, in-season regulations in New Jersey.
Rich Hansen, head football coach for the past three-plus decades and athletic director at St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City, said the changes are not significant for most coaches.
"I think there's a trickle-down effect from the NFL," Hansen said. "It's all linked to the inability to tackle the right way. I think the rules are only as effective as they will be policed, so the jury is still out. If we call get on board to help the game of football, then we will all be for it."
The NJSIAA uses the honor system for its rules.
Steve DiGregorio, head football coach at Nutley High School, former head coach at Paramus Catholic and former assistant coach at Princeton University, said many schools have seen the number of football players decrease.
"It's all good, if it keeps the kids playing football and the game of football healthy," he said. "I watch a ton of games in the NFL and college and, of course, high school. I've seen a tremendous drop-off in the ability to tackle. I guess we're pretty much policing it ourselves. Most of us now already have detailed practice plans that we follow. All in all, it's a move in a positive direction. The game has to adapt, because there might not be anyone left to coach."
The NJSIAA also approved proposals on Wednesday to mandate that all athletes watch a film on opioid addiction that is being developed by the state attorney general's office, and a directive limiting practices and games in excessive heat.
"Congratulations and thank you to the NJSIAA and NJFCA," said Terry O'Neil, founder of Practice Like Pros. "This is a Valentine for the 23,000 boys who play New Jersey high school football. The one certain way to mitigate football injury is to limit contact in practice. New Jersey has pioneered a model that is sure to be emulated across the country."
Larry White, executive director of the NJSIAA, said the decision was easy.
"The NJSIAA strives to be a leading state association in matters of health and safety for our student-athletes," he said
AP freelancer Jim Hague contributed to this report.