Giving extra points to public high school football teams in New Jersey that play non-public "superpowers" like Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco Prep doesn't appear to have much effect on playoff qualification.
At least, it didn't until 2018.
After a season that included much controversy over the New Jersey United plan - a pilot which included the Born Power Index, a strength component whose formula was not made public - the NJSIAA and coaches and athletic directors around the state will work on fixing it.
But as it turns out, the "multipliers" - which were expanded to selected non-public schools throughout the rest of the state - may not be to blame.
The "multiplier" system came about in 2016 amid controversy of its own, after it wasn't published in the official NJSIAA regulations that year, and some argued it was added later behind closed doors. The NJSIAA Executive Committee re-examined the issue mid-season, and decided to keep the pilot program, but tweak it the following season.
The first teams to be included were Bergen Catholic, Don Bosco Prep, Paramus Catholic, St. Joe's of Montvale and St. Peter's Prep from the United Red Division, as well as Delbarton, DePaul, Pope John and Seton Hall Prep from the White.
An extensive analysis of the first three years of multipliers in New Jersey by WCTC Sports found the following:
- In the first two years of the "multiplier" system only seven public schools attempted to play them. Only one of those schools made the playoffs. That was Columbia, which in 2016 was 1-8 and beat out 4-4 Linden for the last North 2, Group 5 playoff spot, sparking even more controversy and a tweak the following year that fixed the problem. (Montclair was the only public school to win a game, but they didn't finish with a losing record, and made the playoffs.)
- In 2017, 19 sub-.500 teams made the playoffs. None of them played multipliers, meaning they all earned their playoff spots based on "true" power points.
- In 2016, the first season of the multiplier, 17 sub-.500 teams made the playoffs. Only one played a multiplier: Columbia, as described above, which lost to Seton Hall Prep 42-6.
To sum up: during those first two seasons, playing a multiplier didn't guarantee getting in the playoffs. Far from it.
But in 2018, things were different.
Not only did the multipliers expand to places like the GMC (for St. Joseph of Metuchen) and the Shore Conference (Mater Dei, Red Bank Catholic, St. John Vianney), but the Born Power Index was added. And non-public teams granted multiplier status generally had high ratings in the Born Power Index.
Those two factors conspired to blow things up in the playoffs in 2018, where 24 sub-.500 teams made the playoffs.
With more multipliers to play, there were 64 games in 2018 featuring a public school vs. a non-public multiplier. Only 59 of those counted as multipliers because some teams played two of them, but the rule is that only the highest value game would count.
Overall, public schools went just 16-48 against non-public multipliers, but even worse when you take out 0-7 Camden Catholic. (Issues with the program after their multiplier designation led to a winless season, but the NJSIAA kept them as a multiplier saying it wouldn't be fair to teams who scheduling them expecting multiplier-like point values.) Public schools went just 9-48 against non-public multipliers with Camden Catholic out of the equation.
Of the 59 public vs. non-public multiplier games, 48 of those public schools made the playoffs.
- 37 of those 48 had winning records
- 11 of those 48 had losing records (and none of them beat a multiplier)
Going back to 2017 and 2016, how many public schools lost to a multiplier, had a losing record at the cutoff, and still made the playoffs
In 2016, only one team did (Columbia). In 2017, none did.
In 2018, 8 did. Here are the teams, and the multipliers they played:
- Westfield (lost to St. Joseph-Metuchen 27-18)
- Passaic Tech (lost to Seton Hall Prep 42-20)
- West Orange (lost to Don Bosco Prep 47-20)
- Washington Twp. (lost to Holy Spirit 40-13)
- Shawnee (lost to St. Augustine 27-3)
- Middletown North (lost to St. John Vianney 37-20 and Red Bank Catholic 38-28)
- Hammonton (lost to Holy Spirit 28-3)
- Ocean City (lost to St. Augustine 38-6)
Only two of those games featured "traditional" multiplier teams, one of the original nine from North Jersey that inspired the rule: Passaic Tech vs. Seton Hall Prep, and West Orange vs. Don Bosco.
It should also be noted that in 2018, all 16 teams that beat a multiplier made the playoffs, although seven of them beat Camden Catholic.
There's a widely held belief in New Jersey that the multipliers are needed top help teams like Don Bosco and Bergen Catholic find in-state teams to play. But none really took advantage of the incentive very much.
It's also worth noting that while playing public schools amounts to an out-of-division game for a school like Paramus Catholic or Don Bosco, some public schools have no choice. St. Joseph of Metuchen's GMC division - though it may change from year to year - only consists of other public schools.
In fact, when the Big Central Football Conference forms in two years, there will only be three non-public schools in the entire 60-plus team conference: St. Joe's, Bishop Ahr and Immaculata.
But it remains to be seen if scheduling for the North Jersey powers still will be a problem after the NJSIAA approved a change to the in-state competition rule, dropping the threshold from 70% to 60%. For a team that plays nine games, that requires a minimum 6 games against in-state competition, as opposed to 7.
The other perceived benefit of multipliers is to the public schools. Because non-publics can draw from a larger geographical area, public schools see the bonus points as a "compensation" of sorts. But there are not enough multipliers across the state. With only three in the future Big Central, that's a maximum of 27 opportunities to play them. And since each is in a typical 6-team division, that accounts for 18 games, further reducing the opportunity to 9 potential matchups for the more than 30 remaining teams that would love the extra boost that might put them in the playoffs.