There will be no Division 1A tournaments, more commonly known as the Super 8, in Massachusetts high school sports for at least the next four years.
In a virtual meeting Thursday, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Tournament Management Committee voted 12-2 to accept the proposal of the Blue Ribbon Committee to “not consider any applications for a 1A Tournament until July 1, 2025, to ensure MIAA sport committees can support their applications with four years of data under the new statewide tournament structure starting in the fall 2021 season.”
The statewide postseason format, which begins with the 2021-22 school year, established criteria for how many divisions would be allowed in each sport, but also gave individual sport committees the option to request an additional division for events like the Super 8. Boys’ hockey has had a Division 1A tournament since 1991, and baseball followed suit in 2014.
At issue for the Blue Ribbon Committee, which included input on Massachusetts law, was maintaining consistency, equity, and Title IX compliance across all sports.
“We’re trying to look at this and say, as we roll out this new state tournament, how do we make sure we’re doing it the right way,” said Sandwich superintendent Pamela Gould, the presenter on behalf of the Blue Ribbon Committee.
The committee believed it was important to start fresh under the statewide format — which will include using power ratings rather than straight winning percentage or, in the case of 1A tournaments, the opinions of a selection committee.
“When the [1A tournaments] were put in a long time ago, there really was a more perceived dominance by certain schools. I think that’s become less and less over time,” Gould said. “It’s allowed us the ability to really assess where is dominance, does it really exist the way we’ve perceived it used to, 10-20 years ago.”
In a letter, the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association said it was “floored” by the decision, and was unhappy it was not consulted.
“The players and coaches all strive to be recognized as a top eight team,” said Walpole coach/athletic director Ron Dowd, adding that “the D1 tournament became wide open.”
Hingham coach Tony Messina, whose program has been one of the top public school teams for the last 20 years, said he was “disappointed.”.
“It appears there was no real attempt to look at the merits of the tournament over the past 30 years or the positive impact it has made on Massachusetts high school hockey during this time,” Messina said. “To make such a big decision without getting input from the MIAA Ice Hockey Committee and our State Hockey Coaches Association is unfathomable.”
Before the Super 8 hockey tournament began in 1991, Catholic schools won every Division 1 state championship from 1979-90, as well as Division 2 from 1986-90.
At the Super 8 level, Catholic schools have the top nine winning percentages overall and 26 of 29 championships. The 23 public schools to play in the tournament have a combined 96-190-3 record (.337) with championships for Reading (2008), Hingham (2010), and Arlington (2017, 2020 co-title).
In Division 1, 20 of the 29 championships from 1991-2019 were won by public schools, including eight of the last nine. Walpole was a co-champion with Belmont in 2020, and also played in the 1A tournament in 2017.
BC High coach John Flaherty said his son Ryan, a sophomore on this year’s team, grew up dreaming of winning a Super 8 championship.
“I’m shocked and disappointed,” Flaherty said. “The Super 8 has been one of the best tournaments in the country.”
Baseball was not as consistently dominated by the parochial schools, which won six straight D1 titles from 1999-2004, but only three more in the next decade before the inception of its 1A tournament in 2014. Public schools won every D1 state championship since 2014, and 5 of 6 Super 8 championships.
If 1A tournaments eventually return in 2025-26, they would fall under the same guidelines as all other MIAA postseason events: selected by power ratings, single-elimination, similar venues for all tournaments, and equity in assigning of officials.
Gould said having a double-elimination format for some teams and not others — even within the same gender of a sport — was an example of the inequity they are trying to eliminate.
“You create an inherent discriminatory practice when you create something separate from everybody else,” Gould said.
Athletic directors John Brown (Wellesley) and Scott Paine (Hull) were the two “no” votes.
Jim Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.