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MIAA football committee discusses new playoff system

The MIAA says it attracted an additional 4,800 fans to this year’s six-game Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

The Boston Globe

The MIAA says it attracted an additional 4,800 fans to this year’s six-game Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

FRANKLIN — The MIAA football committee’s first meeting since the conclusion of the 2013 season focused on increased revenue after a disappointing 2012 season and fielded suggestions from the committee on how to tweak the new playoff system.

The 2013 playoffs — consisting of sectional tournaments, state semifinals, and state championships — had a total attendance of 57,526 and grossed $596,121.37, an increase from last year’s disappointing showing of 49,939 and gross of $490,508.

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Gillette Stadium drew a combined attendance of 18,082 across all six Super Bowls, with the MIAA grossing $278,504 and Gillette bringing in $54,245.90. In 2012, total attendance was 13,289 — a byproduct of poor weather and lower attendance in Super Bowls involving Western Massachusetts teams — and grossed $179,079 for the MIAA and $39,867 for Gillette.

However, from 2007-11, average Super Bowl attendance was 18,235.

“Compared to where we were in the past, we’re down,” MIAA assistant director Peter Smith said.

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“We are still down in our vision of where we want to be,” MIAA associate director Richard Pearson said.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first chance for committee members from all eight districts across the state to discuss their evaluations of the new playoff format.

The majority were pleased with the new system after the first year of a two-year trial run. Xaverian athletic director and football coach Charlie Stevenson felt the system “hit it out of the park” in its goal to give more players the opportunity to compete in the playoffs.

However, Malden assistant principal Daniel Keefe expressed mostly negative feedback. He cited problems with revenue sharing in non-playoff games and difficulty motivating players to play out the season after being eliminated from the postseason as reasons for his skepticism.

“What do we have to do to consider [going back to] the old format?” Keefe asked.

Lynn English athletic director Gary Molea believes non-playoff games should feature more league games that were rivalries in the old system that aren’t played in the seven-game regular season.

“It seems to be a winners’ tournament,” Molea said of the playoff. “The losers get killed.”

Stevenson disagreed with the negative responses and felt teams had no problems playing out the rest of the season in the old format after being eliminated from postseason contention before the end of the regular season.

The committee’s major proposal for tweaking the format was making all league games worth 10 power-rating points regardless of division. Another proposal was to eliminate the second automatic qualifying bid to the postseason in leagues with five or more teams, with only league champions earning automatic bids and the rest of the bracket made up of wild-card teams based on the power-rating system.

To prevent Thanksgiving rivals meeting multiple times in a season, St. John’s Prep athletic director and football coach James O’Leary suggested all leagues follow the Catholic Conference’s lead and not have those teams meet in the regular season. That, according to O’Leary, would also leave one more open week for leagues to fill with rivalry games that used to be played under the old format.

The committee members will meet with subcommittees within their respective districts to discuss the suggestions brought up at the meeting, and the committee will meet again May 8 to vote on prospective changes.

The meeting started with Littleton athletic director and football coach Mike Lynn proposing that all blocks below the waist be eliminated.

Board hears from GBL

The MIAA board of directors listened to an appeal for help from the Greater Boston League Wednesday. The GBL will drop to four schools once Cambridge leaves after this year and Somerville principal John Oteri and athletic director Nicole Viele asked for guidance on what the league’s options were. “Right now we’re kind of floundering,” said Oteri. The GBL has tried to join the Middlesex League twice and the Northeastern Conference three times and on each occasion was told no. While saying it wasn’t something the board generally gets involved with, it did instruct MIAA staff to continue the discussions . . . The board also heard a presentation about a new digital platform for its Educational Athletics curriculum. Called a marriage of social media and educational athletics, the program is called FINAO, or Failure Is Not An Option. Created by a former Microsoft executive, FINAO will debut in the spring. After joining, students can create goals in wellness, sportsmanship, leadership, and community service and track their progress. Massachusetts would be the first state to use the new website, finaonation.com . . . The MIAA has prepared four public service announcements and distributed them to 150 radio stations across the state.

Bob Holmes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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