Legislation Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli, Mila Jasey and John McKeon sponsored to curb redshirting among middle school athletes seeking an advantage over their peers was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
“Repeating a grade is a process in place for students who need more time to grasp concepts from the classroom, not athletes who want to have it easier when they compete,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Allowing students to stay back a year solely for athletic reasons goes against the sense of sportsmanship that is a central component of interscholastic competition.”
The bill (A-4832) would prohibit school districts from joining an association which oversees statewide interscholastic sports, such as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, unless the association prohibits student-athletes from repeating grades in order to gain an athletic advantage. Specifically, the legislation would require the association to limit students who have successfully completed sixth, seventh or eighth grade yet repeat any of those grades in order to gain an athletic advantage to only six consecutive semesters of interscholastic eligibility after entering ninth grade.
“For a student-athlete, academic achievement should always be the first priority,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Prohibiting students from putting their scholastic progress on hold for the sake of athletics emphasizes the notion that school comes first – for students, for coaches and for the entire league.”
“Redshirting disrupts interscholastic sports by giving certain students an advantage based on their willingness to manipulate the system, not their natural ability or merit,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “Some student-athletes may feel like the best way to get ahead is to stay back, but in reality, redshirting is a deceptive means of getting the attention of a coach or a recruiter.”
Under current NJSIAA rules, a student-athlete is eligible to compete as a high school senior provided he or she is under 19 prior to Sept. 1 of his or her senior year. These rules also provide that an athlete only may play interscholastic high school sports for eight consecutive semesters.
The measure, which the Senate passed in December, was advanced by the Assembly Education Committee.