fb-pixel Skip to main content

MIAA Football Committee recommends playoff proposal with nine-game regular season

Nick Berlino (left) and his Mansfield teammates snared the MIAA's 2019 Division 2 Super Bowl title against Lincoln-Sudbury at Gillette Stadium.
Nick Berlino (left) and his Mansfield teammates snared the MIAA's 2019 Division 2 Super Bowl title against Lincoln-Sudbury at Gillette Stadium.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The MIAA Football Committee met virtually Tuesday, but in a closed session, and approved a proposal, by a 17-2-1 vote, to change the postseason format beginning with Fall 2021.

The proposal essentially matches the second of two presented in December by Milton coach Steve Dembowski on behalf of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association. It calls for a nine-week regular season, with eight teams in each of the eight new statewide divisions qualifying for the playoffs. The committee also considered a 16-team playoff plan, but that vote ended in a deadlock.

The proposal will be forwarded to the MIAA Tournament Management Committee for review. The TMC is scheduled to meet virtually Wednesday, but the football proposal will not be part of the agenda. The next subsequent TMC meeting is scheduled for Feb. 24.


Using the 2021 calendar, this is how the proposal would break down:

▪ A nine-game regular season beginning Sept. 6-11, and ending Nov. 1-6, with no byes.

▪ Playoffs begin with divisional quarterfinals Nov. 12-13, and semifinals Nov. 19-20.

▪ Non-qualifying teams have the option of playing one consolation game Nov. 12-13.

▪ No consolation games needed for teams that lose in the first round of the playoffs.

▪ Thanksgiving games are played mid-playoffs, are not part of postseason structure, and do not count toward qualifying for the tournament.

▪ Superbowls played Dec. 3-4.

Among the benefits cited by the MHSFCA is a longer regular season, up from the seven games (eight in Central and West) during the last (2019) completed football season, and eight games as part of the plan passed by the TMC last June. The proposal also would greatly reduce the need for consolation games, a concern for many coaches and athletic directors in past formats. Non-qualifying schools still would have the option of scheduling a consolation opponent during the first week of the playoffs, arrangements that would be made by the individual schools, and no longer a “scheduling committee.”


“From the standpoint of the coaches association, and the feedback we’ve gotten in the last year, this was the second-best option,” Dembowski said. “If the idea was to be in line with other sports, we didn’t want consolation games.”

However, the proposed plan takes Thanksgiving games out of the regular season and tournament qualifying, placing them between the state semifinals and championship game — as has been the case since the most recent playoff format change, in 2013.

The MHSFCA’s “preferred plan” — the other of the two presented by Dembowski last month — would have concluded the regular season on Thanksgiving, and featured three rounds of playoffs in 12 days beginning with the final Tuesday in November and running through the second Saturday in December. However, there were concerns about the short turnaround between games, as well as extending the football season an additional week into the traditional winter calendar.

Two of the other proposals from December’s meeting were generated from athletic directors in the Middlesex League, Merrimack Valley Conference, Dual County League, and Boston City League. They called for a.) a seven-game regular season and 16-team playoffs beginning the last week of October; or b.) an eight-game regular season and eight-team playoff brackets beginning the first week of November. Both proposals would have had championship games the weekend before Thanksgiving, with the traditional holiday rivalry games ending the season.


Another proposal from Mount Greylock also would have ended the playoffs before Thanksgiving, but with a nine-week regular season beginning as early as the final weekend of August, and no consolation games.

Jim Clark can be reached at jim.clark@globe.com.