MIAA commits to TV proposal

FRANKLIN — Ever thought how great it would be to watch the Super 8 title game live on television? Or how about the state soccer or baseball championships? At Wednesday’s MIAA Board of Directors meeting in Franklin, directors heard of a National High School Sports Network that could start televising Massachusetts’s title games this fall.

After hearing a presentation from associate director Sherry Bryant, the board voted 10-0 to commit to the proposal. If 26 or more state associations commit to the idea before the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) summer meeting next month in Denver, the proposal will become a reality.


“The quality of the programming and the ability to spotlight our student-athletes, it’s a great opportunity,’’ said Bryant, who listened to proposal specifics last month in a NFHS conference in Indianapolis.

The programming is being done by PlayOn! Sports in partnership with the NFHS. PlayOn! Sports began in 2006 as a division of Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner. It has already worked with 31 states, including Rhode Island and Connecticut, and has committed $13.5 million to this national effort. The NFHS is contributing approximately $1.5 million.

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According to Bryant, PlayOn! Sports and the NFHS began discussions for the network in November. East Boston principal Mike Rubin was the first to hear of the idea. Rubin is an at-large member of the National Federation Board and heard about the proposal at the annual winter meeting in January in Indianapolis.

Rubin called the possibility of putting events such as the city basketball championship on national television, “Awesome. It’s a win-win situation, very exciting stuff.”

There are a number of models being discussed, with one similar to Netflix, the popular online movie site. If you wanted to watch all the basketball title games you might purchase a day pass. Want just one game, then pay less. And title games across the country would be available. That grandmother in Florida who couldn’t make it to Boston to see her granddaughter in the state championship could now potentially watch her play on television.


The state football Super Bowls at Gillette would not be included in the agreement because those rights already belong to Kraft Sports Productions. But all other title games in the state are eligible to be televised, although it’s expected that not every state championship will be televised.

The financial gain for the MIAA is also impressive. The organization would receive approximately $60,000 per year in rights fees the first three years of an expected five-year agreement.

“I felt it was such a thorough job, and such a level of confidence,’’ said Bryant of the cooperation between PlayOn! Sports and the national federation. “It’s more like a family coming together to start a family business.’’

Boys’ gymnastics rehash

The meeting began with an appeal from Braintree for the board to reconsider its January decision to remove sponsorship of boys’ gymnastics. Coach Rich Ellis was followed by athletic director Mike Denise and each made arguments, many of which the board has heard before.

They spoke of the potential effect on girls’ teams, the fact the MIAA sponsors girls’ gymnastics in Western Massachusetts as a fall sport despite having just six teams and less than 100 competitors, and the willingness of USA Gymnastics to take over writing rules for the state in the absence of NHFS rules.

Later in the meeting, Shawsheen superintendent Charlie Lyons made a motion for the board to reconsider their January decision and put the future of MIAA-sponsored boys’ gymnastics on the June meeting agenda.

It passed, 7-2, and the sport with seven schools and 149 athletes will get one last chance to remain an MIAA sport.

“Certainly pleased with the outcome of today’s Board of Directors meeting,’’ said Denise. “There was positive dialogue from both sides of the table regarding this tradition-rich sport in the state of Massachusetts.

“It’s about the student-athletes. It’s about participation. And thankfully USA Gymnastics has written rules to satisfy a factor in the Board’s original decision to vote to not support boys’ gymnastics.”

A more lengthy portion of the meeting was voting on 25 proposals including subjects like mouthguards and middle school students. Only No. 17 is worth mentioning. The board unanimously voted against adding bowling as an MIAA sport.

Bob Holmes can be reached at
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