After months of speculation, state lawmakers believe New Jersey is on track to have high school sports this fall.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday afternoon that the decision to play fall sports will come directly from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), with support from his Office.

“We know that NJSIAA is taking extremely seriously the need for protecting everyone in our school communities and will only pursue a sports schedule if they feel the proper health and safety requirements can be met,” Murphy said at his daily press briefing from Trenton.

“I am encouraged that most of our fall sports…are played outdoors,” Murphy continued, citing football, soccer and cross country, among others. “Outdoor activities are increasingly safer than indoor ones.”

Murphy was joined by Sen. Paul Sarlo – a member of the NJSIAA Executive Committee – and Assm. Benjie Wimberly, the head football coach at Hackensack High School.

“These student athletes are extremely active individuals who need sports in their lives, not only from a physical well-being, but also for their mental and social well-being, as well,” Sarlo said.

“With the challenges of COVID-19 nationwide and worldwide, and the racial unrest here in the country, we need that locker room camaraderie to bring our communities back together,” Wimberly said.

The NJSIAA released a positive statement moments after the press conference.

“NJSIAA appreciates the continued support of Governor Murphy, Senator Sarlo, and Assemblyman Wimberly,” the statement reads. “With their input, as well as continued guidance from our roster of experts, we look forward to announcing updates to our plans later this week.”

Murphy and the NJSIAA updated their plans last week when it was announced that schools who opt for remote, out-of-school learning to start the fall, can play.

Ultimately, it seems individual school districts will have the discretion to permit or cancel sports. That’s a far cry from the 12 other states nationwide who’ve already cancelled scholastic sports.

So far, however, six school districts have announced their teams won’t be suiting up this fall. Those are Trenton, West Windsor-Plainsboro, Carteret, New Egypt and Piscataway.

Sarlo said there are about 95,000 student athletes who participate in fall sports throughout the Garden State.

Stay tuned with Jersey Sports Zone in the coming days for more information and announcements regarding how COVID-19 will impact the return to fall high school sports this season.