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Sports seasons left alone, playoff realignment sought

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The Jack McGrath Press Box at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Jim Mahoney)

MIAA seeks to get more athletes involved in championship bid

By LORENZO RECUPERO

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Football Committee convened virtually via video chat and decided not to fix what isn’t broken.

The committee met to discuss proposed high school football divisional and tournament alignments for the 2021-23 seasons and voted 14-0-2 (two abstentions) in favor of keeping the current 8 division format with a redesigned playoff alignment.

Both the football committees proposals will go up to the Tournament Management Committee next on June 4 for official approval.

Since 2016, football has been played within 8 divisions, but a plan passed in February by the entire MIAA membership maxed the number of divisions in any given sport to five.

The MIAA’s approved plan, however, provided a provision that would allow for sports committees to “request divisional expansion or alternatives to realignment” when necessary to the TMC.

The football committees 8 division format proposal will allow for 16 teams to have a shot at a state championship and even more to participate in the tournament.

Proponents of the format noted the need to afford all athletes across each division the same opportunities to make it to the postseason.

The plan comes as football programs numbers are dropping across the state.

The proposed 2021 football divisional realignment breakdown looks like this:

D. 1 (28 teams)
D. 2 (32 teams)
D. 3 (36 teams)
D. 4 (33 teams)
D. 5 (38 teams)
D. 6 (35 teams)
D. 7 (38 teams)
D. 8 (42 teams)

In total, under the new proposal, 128 teams across Massachusetts would make the playoffs. There’s currently just over 280 football programs in the state.

In addition, the MIAA Football Committee also heard a proposal by the Mass High School Football Coaches Association that requests major alterations to the structure of the season as a whole.

The proposal would add one game to the current schedule, making the regular season a 9-week affair and pushing the playoffs to after the Thanksgiving game, helping to restore the importance of the traditional rivalry game, according to some coaches. In recent years, the Thanksgiving game has been played after the playoffs, causing some teams to sit their top players to avoid injuries.

The Football Committee will form a subcommittee to look into the proposed changes to the regular season, which would be finalized by March of 2021.

There will be no playoff changes implemented in the fall of 2020.

Basketball update

The MIAA Basketball Committee met to discuss divisional alignments and future changes to its girls’ and boys’ basketball tournament. The basketball committee voted 16-1 to approve its subcommittees proposal to increase to five divisions overall, a change from four currently. The approved realignments for boys’ basketball would look like this:

D. 1 (69 teams)
D. 2 (69 teams)
D. 3 (70 teams)
D. 4 (70 teams)
D. 5 (70 teams)

Girls basketball would have 69 teams in each of the five divisions. The proposal will be sent to the TMC for final approval as part of the process for the new statewide tournament, which will begin in fall 2021.

Hockey update

Boys – A proposed four division setup for the 2021 season was approved by the MIAA Ice Hockey committee. The alignments would look like this:

D. 1 (50 teams)
D. 2 (49 teams)
D. 3 (60 teams)
D. 4 (36 teams)

Girls – The current two division (45 teams per) setup will remain in place.

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