Spring football to replace July practice? NJ coach wants to see it
While it may be standard practice in other major states that produce Division I football players, spring football at the high school level has never been sanctioned in New Jersey.
A longtime and very successful football coach thinks that's a joke, so he's formulating a plan to get rid of that rule and give New Jersey high schools a chance to adjust their football calendar.
Rich Hansen, head football coach and athletic director at Saint Peter's Prep in Jersey City, as well as the president of the North Jersey Super Football Conference, would like to see a couple weeks open up in April and May for practice and/or drills.
This would coincide with the NCAA's opening recruiting period, Hansen said, meaning players who wish to extend their football journey beyond high school would have the opportunity to show off their skills live in front of college coaches.
"So our players would be given the same evaluative advantage that the players in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, California are given," Hansen told New Jersey 101.5.
Currently, a recruiter visiting New Jersey in the spring would have the opportunity to view a prospect in the weight room, but the player can not be on a field with a football during that time, based on New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association rules and regulations.
"It's kind of a joke," Hansen said. "We're at a disadvantage in New Jersey right now."
Hansen said if his proposal were to become a reality, even as a pilot program in the beginning, it would let high schools decide whether they'd become a "spring football school." In exchange, no football would occur at that school in the month of July, except for strength conditioning.
"And then August 1, hit the ground running with real football practice," he said, adding that the elimination of July football could reduce the number of heat-related injuries, and give more students the chance to vacation with their families without fear of losing a spot on the team.
Hansen said this option could also lead to an uptick in participation statewide.
If a school with many two- or three-season athletes should choose to allow spring football, Hansen said, sports staff at the school can get creative with scheduling to allow a student to participate in more than one sport at a time.
Hansen, who's entering his 32nd season as head coach (243-64-1 record), said he's been in talks with the NFL and more than a dozen NCAA Division I coaches to help craft his proposal, which would be passed on to the NJSIAA.
NJSIAA said it typically does not comment on proposed changes. The association's constitution includes a timeline that suggests any successful proposal would take several months to move through the approval process.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.