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SCHOOLS

With high school football pushed to ‘Fall II’, debate continues on ‘out-of-season’ coaching and practices

In lieu of tackle football this fall, school districts and leagues are considering whether to approve out-of-season coaching and conduct conditioning drills.
In lieu of tackle football this fall, school districts and leagues are considering whether to approve out-of-season coaching and conduct conditioning drills.FILE/MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

In their first meeting since May 12, the MIAA’s Football Committee discussed an approach toward a fall season without organized tackle football.

At the heart of Tuesday morning’s call via Zoom was a debate on the possibility of out-of-season coaching, which the association’s Board of Directors voted to allow this school year, waiving Rule 40.1 because of the extenuating circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic.

In August, the Board voted to move sports deemed high risk, such as football, to a “floating” season, or Fall II (Feb. 22-April 25).

While a number of districts have voted to prohibit any out-of-season coaching because of liability reasons and other constraints, a few districts are split, and some schools are taking on internal responsibility by creating their own plans for out-of-season practices within state guidelines.

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For example, Dennis-Yarmouth principal Paul Funk outlined his school’s plan to run girls' volleyball practices outdoors, and Shrewsbury athletic director Jay Costa described a plan to allow 90-minute practices for sports that his school postponed to the Fall II period.

Former St. John’s Prep AD Jim O’Leary expressed concern that in District 6 (formerly H), private schools in the Catholic Conference and Central Catholic League may be able to run modified practices — but schools in the Boston City League won’t be taking part in Fall I sports.

“What is the fairness, will it further divide our state?” asked O’Leary, also chair of the MIAA’s Tournament Management Committee. “You have a large part of our district that will not be able to participate. That cannot be lost in the discussion.”

In response to those challenges and in order to create a unified proposal to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) regarding football activities this fall and in the Fall II period, MIAA associate executive director Richard Pearson called for the formation of a small subcommittee.

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According to Pearson, the EEA likely won’t make any decisions regarding the winter or Fall II season until the organization collects data from the first three or four weeks of the Fall I season.

Milton football coach Steve Dembowski, the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association liaison to the football committee, said that initial discussions with the EEA regarding modified practices were somewhat one-sided.

Fall sports — other than football, competitive cheer, and unified basketball — can hold practices starting this Friday as long as they meet modifications laid out by the EEA and by individual school committees.

The football committee also voted, 18-0-0, to adopt the rules laid out by the National Federation of High Schools for a potential MIAA football season next spring.

At the outset of the meeting, Costa was elected vice chair of the football committee, Stoneham AD David Pignone was elected secretary, and Grafton principal Jim Pignataro was re-elected as chair of the committee.