MaxPreps likely still is a big part of the future of high school sports, but the MIAA Tournament Management Committee is proceeding with a bit of caution.
During a virtual meeting Thursday, the TMC voted to overturn the requirement that all fall sports be seeded with a MaxPreps power rating formula. The committee also approved alignment proposals for four sports in conjunction with the statewide tournament set to begin in fall 2021.
However, two sports expected to draw the most scrutiny from the TMC — football and ice hockey — were a big topic of conversation despite not being part of the official agenda. The TMC has another meeting scheduled for June 29, during which football and hockey alignment proposals are expected to be at the forefront.
Much of the TMC’s current work is focused on preparations for the statewide tournament, which is more than a year away from implementation after being approved by a vote of the full MIAA membership in February.
One of the key components is utilizing a power ratings system to select and seed all team sports tournaments. The TMC settled on MaxPreps, a national website, with the plan to seed all tournaments during the 2020-21 seasons as a sort of “test drive” of the system and all it entails, including scheduling and score input.
But TMC members were concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the fall 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wellesley athletic director John Brown initially motioned to remove MaxPreps for the entire 2020-21 school year, but after that was defeated, a new motion by Westborough AD Johanna DiCarlo to focus initially on just the fall season was unanimously approved, 13-0.
The vote essentially maintains the “status quo,” according to MIAA assistant director Sherry Bryant. Individual fall sports can continue to use their previous seeding criteria, whether that is straight winning percentage or some sort of formula such as Walker or the football playoff ratings.
The TMC will address next year’s winter and spring seasons, if necessary, at a later date, and if MaxPreps’ role in the statewide tournament beginning in fall 2021 remains unchanged.
The ongoing process of approving sport alignments for the statewide tournament is a more pressing concern for the TMC, and the crux of the 2½-hour meeting that grew contentious at times.
The approved statewide tournament proposal included criteria for number of divisions in a sport — including four divisions for 200-274 schools, and five divisions for 275 or more. The TMC approved proposals of four divisions for field hockey (204 teams), and five divisions for basketball (348 boys, 345 girls), soccer (332 boys, 326 girls) and girls’ volleyball (290).
Meanwhile, football and hockey — originally expected to be at the forefront of a June 4 TMC meeting that ultimately was postponed — remain in limbo. Football’s current proposal is to remain at eight divisions, while boys’ hockey (195 teams) is asking for four divisions, despite falling just short of the criteria.
But more of an issue for some TMC members was the belief those respective sport committees, in aligning their teams, deviated from the guidelines and framework of the statewide tournament plan.
“We need to remind ourselves, when we started this process, consistency and the need to do this for all, was the goal,” DiCarlo said.
Brown, one of four TMC members also on the Ice Hockey Committee, noted that a survey of hockey-playing schools was a big factor in their alignments. For example, Pope Francis, which has reached three consecutive Super Eight championship games, would be a Division 4 team under the strict TMC criteria.
“It was a time-consuming effort by a lot of people to get it right . . . not just following the TMC guidelines, but also the survey,” Brown said. “Honestly, to get lumped in with other groups that might not do this correctly, when there were hours and hours, and days and days of work . . . it does get frustrating. Because it was done right.”
Both Bryant and committee chair Jim O’Leary stressed the need for those sports to provide supporting information explaining how they developed their alignments.
“We’re trying to get as much consistency as we can, [but] consistent doesn’t mean identical,” Bryant said.
Lowell AD Dave Lezenski said a change of membership on July 1 would mean new members who don’t know the history of the votes and discussions, and outgoing members who won’t have the opportunity to vote on their work.
"Alignments are a big deal, and something we've been working on for two or three years," Wahconah AD Jared Shannon said.
Chicopee Public Schools AD Sean Mackin also said a subcommittee is working to develop a “competitive equity tool” that will consider what will define an “urban school” as well as other factors such as enrollment stability and student needs. The TMC agreed it was too late to be included in the initial sport alignments, but could be used in the subsequent appeals process.