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MIAA reports lower attendance, revenue for winter season

FRANKLIN — Numbers, mainly low, were the focus of Wednesday’s meeting of the MIAA Board of Directors.

David King, Athol’s athletic director and chair of the Finance Committee, opened with a review of the nine-month financial statements, an agenda item that usually draws little discussion. But this one was different. King said winter tournament revenue was down approximately $100,000 from last year with both basketball and hockey having poor attendance.

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“We probably had our lowest attendance in basketball since we played at UMass-Amherst,” said MIAA executive director Bill Gaine, referring to the 2005 season. Only 8,800 fans showed for the six state championship games at the DCU Center in Worcester, a number usually closer to 12,000, according to Gaine.

And hockey was down as well, including the Super 8 tournament that was hurt by the absence of public schools, which tend to draw better, and the presence of Springfield Cathedral, whose fans had the longest drive to see their team play. Overall, the five championship hockey games at TD Garden drew 17,500 fans, down from the average of 18,000.

With 75 percent of MIAA revenue coming from tournaments, the winter numbers might be cause for concern. But fall tournament revenue was up $50,000 and overall revenue was up $100,000 because of a dues increase now in its third year. Schools pay a $2,000 flat fee to join the MIAA, along with an amount based on the number of varsity sports they field. On average, schools pay $2,653 to be an MIAA member.

“We’re still in a good position,” said King.

Football discussion drew representatives from Monson and Palmer, who asked the board’s help in forming a co-op football team. In three previous votes by the Tri-County League, the co-op was voted down, 5-4, and therefore blocked from going to the District F committee for consideration. District committees have the final say on approving co-op teams. Monson and Palmer officials asked the board to send the proposal directly to the District F committee and bypass the usual league approval. The board voted 10-0 in favor of their request.

The future of the MIAA’s new football playoff system, which debuted last fall as a two-year trial, was also discussed. Gaine said some members were asking how the MIAA was planning to proceed after the end of the coming season. Gaine suggested three options to the board: 1. The Football Committee would review the playoff system and make recommendations to the Tournament Management Committee, the normal procedure for changes in a sport; 2. The Football Committee would make recommendations direct to the board; 3. The board would make a recommendation and put it to a school-wide membership vote, similar to the process that approved the playoff system in 2012.

In keeping with the day’s theme of low numbers, the 20-member board was unable to vote on the options because it didn’t have a quorum after two individuals had to leave early. The question will be taken up at the June 4 meeting.

For those who believe cheerleading is a sport, take heart. A bill to make the MIAA recognize cheerleading as a sport is still alive and should know its fate by the end of June . . . The board voted to approve the Vocational School tournaments and took the additional step of saying they no longer had to get yearly approval for the tournaments, unless the format was significantly changed . . . Massachusetts will host the 95th annual National Federation of State High School Associations meeting in Boston June 28-July 2.

Bob Holmes can be reached at rholmes@globe.com
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