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Schools that appeal tourney disqualifications must pay

FRANKLIN — The MIAA Board of Directors began the 2014-15 school year Wednesday discussing an old issue but with a decidedly new twist.

For the first time in state history, schools that decide to appeal tournament disqualifications because of ineligible players will have to pay $300. And that’s just the start of a process that will include a letter of explanation from the school’s superintendent, principal and athletic director; mandatory attendance at an MIAA Rules Orientation Workshop for the principal, athletic director, and coach; and finally automatic placement as the last seed in the tournament. And even with the money, letter, and workshop, there’s no guarantee the board will grant a school’s appeal.

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Last year three schools came before the board to appeal tournament disqualifications -- Attleboro (soccer), Revere (hockey), and Bedford (softball). In each case the board granted the school’s appeals and allowed them to play in their respective tournaments. But in the time since their last meeting in June, board members have grown less and less comfortable with those decisions, in part because they fear an increase in appeals with schools believing even if they break a rule, all they have to do is appeal and they can play.

The message Wednesday was clear. Any school looking to appeal this year will have to put its money where its mouth is. Board members acknowledged that when a school appeared before them to appeal, often complete with team members, it was hard for them to look at the students and rule against them when the players did nothing wrong.

“It’s never the kids’ fault. It’s always the adults,” said Fitchburg athletic director Ray Cosenza, referring to administrative errors that often lead to an ineligible player taking the field.

But some had little sympathy for those who violate MIAA eligibility rules.

“I’m old school,” said retired East Boston principal Mike Rubin. “Rules are rules and you break the rules you have to pay the consequences.”

But appeals are part of the MIAA system and are not going away. The unanimous vote was a get-tough compromise, starting with $300.

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Executive director Bill Gaine updated the board about the plight of the Greater Boston League, which is dropping to four schools with Cambridge departing for the Dual County this fall. Gaine mentioned talks he had with the Northeastern Conference but on three occasions the NEC has rejected adding the GBL schools. Shawsheen superintendent Charles Lyons suggested that a system like New Jersey uses, in which the state association assigns schools to leagues, would prevent issues like this. “I think it’s an important conversation,” said Lyons.

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MIAA lobbyist Coley Walsh updated the board about bills at the state house involving cheerleading becoming an MIAA sport, the use of helmets in soccer, baseline testing for concussions, and mandatory CPR certification for state coaches. All are under discussion in various committees.

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