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MIAA football proposal gets another OK

FRANKLIN - Even with the biggest hurdle yet to come, Thursday’s 10-4 vote in favor of the statewide football playoff system by the Tournament Management Committee included something seldom seen in an MIAA meeting: a celebration.

It wasn’t a wild, cork-popping affair, but an acknowledgement by all that football players across the state are one step closer to joining their soccer, field hockey, and volleyball classmates in a playoff system that will allow greater participation and produce a true state champion.

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At the TMC’s last meeting in March, it asked the Football Committee to provide greater details on the plan. It did, and the TMC liked what it saw.

“It’s been a long haul, and I think it’s a great opportunity,’’ said Kathleen McSweeney, the TMC chair and Plymouth North principal. “I think it’s a step in the right direction.’’

McSweeney, who also chaired the ad hoc committee that produced a proposal that was voted down at the annual meeting in 2010, immediately texted her vice principal Bill Burkhead after the vote. It was Burkhead, as North’s athletic director, who was a key figure in constructing the last proposal. And it may have been that failed try that is helping propel this one along.

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“Yes, all the work that we went through really laid the foundation,’’ said McSweeney. “I think it got people thinking differently, that it really is possible to take a look at what’s best for kids and best for football.’’

But as any veteran follower of the MIAA knows, one committee is usually followed by another. Next up is the June 7 meeting of the MIAA’s board of directors.

The options available to the 18-member board are many. It can vote to support the proposal, defeat it, push it to a vote of the annual meeting in March 2013, or, if the board has questions, it can throw it back to the TMC to get answers at the June 18 meeting. And since it’s a two-year pilot proposal, the board could even vote to approve it but delay the implementation until 2014.

But for now, the work of the State Football Coaches Association and the MIAA Football Committee appears over.

“Pretty much,’’ said Football Committee chair and Ipswich principal Barry Cahill. “It will really fall into the hands of the board in how they want to deal with it. But I think it’s time and we have a good enough plan so that it’s worth them supporting it.’’

For Cahill, who is retiring this summer after 26 years as a principal, his last grade was a good one. The committee’s task was to convince the TMC that the proposal was worth supporting, which it did.

“The grade was pretty good,’’ said McSweeney. “They get an A.’’

The TMC voted, 13-0-1, in favor of expanding Division 4 in basketball to Central and Western Massachusetts starting in 2013. Currently, Division 4 is limited to EMass.

The vote means that some EMass schools will be moved to CMass for the tournament, and some CMass schools will be placed in WMass, all in the interest of having the same number of schools in each sectional.

The schools to be moved will be identified on the MIAA website in late summer; those schools can appeal their placement.

“It’s not an exact science, but our goal is to be as equitable as possible for the kids,’’ said Basketball Committee chair and Watertown athletic director Mike Lahiff. “It would be nice if everything was in groups of 16.’’

At its June 18 meeting, the TMC will hear proposals to create a Division 4 for the soccer tournament and also hear expansion plans for lacrosse and wrestling.

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