FRANKLIN — In its first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the MIAA football committee discussed a potentially tricky issue regarding the length of quarters Wednesday morning.
When the MIAA adopted the football rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) ahead of the 2019 season, the association had to implement more than 230 changes to its rulebook, including a mandatory move to 12-minute quarters for all regular season games.
In the final year of its contract with Gillette Stadium, the MIAA will run 10-minute quarters in the 2021 state finals, scheduled for the first weekend in December. But the association will likely have to change to 12-minute quarters for the state finals beginning in 2022.
That could mean finding more venues, adding another day of games at Gillette, or, the football committee could vote to remove the requirement of 12-minute quarters altogether, at the cost of losing the MIAA’s seat on the NFHS rules committee.
“Change is hard,” said football committee secretary David Pignone, the athletic director at Stoneham High. “I’ve heard complaints from all size schools [regarding quarter length]. You always try to listen to your state and be their voice, so I heard a lot of different things. I don’t think it’s the biggest issue. We just have to address it, and move forward. To me, it’s clear, either we have a spot at the NFHS table, or we don’t care about that, and we move our quarters to 11 minutes.”
In an effort to reach a consensus on the subject, the football committee formed a subcommittee to discuss scenarios, poll individual districts, and come back to the next committee meeting (scheduled for Dec. 15, virtually) with ideas for the postseason format and quarter length requirements beginning in 2022.
According to MIAA associate executive director Richard Pearson, the deadline for decisions on time and format is March 4, 2022.
Milton coach Steve Dembowski, the state coaches’ representative on the committee, mentioned safety concerns cited by smaller schools in the Mayflower Conference when they were told 12-minute quarters were becoming mandatory.
Dembowski, who will serve on the subcommittee, said it’s also important for the MHSFCA to establish consistency between the length of quarters in the regular season and the state finals.
“The coaches association has wanted that whatever [length] we play in the regular season, it should be the same in the state championship,” said Dembowski.
“In our opinion, you shouldn’t play 11 or 12 games to get to the state final with 12-minute quarters, then have 10-minute [quarters] in the state final.”
“I think there are a lot of things to consider and we have the ability to bury the rule [on 12-minute quarters] to do what’s best for Massachusetts, if that’s what the MIAA member schools want.”
At the outset of the meeting, the football committee welcomed new members Jeffrey Creamer, the Worcester South principal, and Xaverian principal Michael Nicholson, who replaces Xaverian headmaster Jacob Conca.
Following the retirement of committee chair Jim Pignataro, vice chair Jay Costa (Shrewsbury AD) was nominated and elected as the new committee chair. Pignone nominated Northeast AD and football coach Don Heres for vice chair, and the committee veteran was elected. Pignone was re-elected as secretary.
“Don [Heres] has been part of this committee for years and he wears different hats — he’s an AD, he’s a coach — so I think he sees it from all those different angles,” said Pignone. “And [Heres] also has a voice from a vocational school. So I think he can speak for a lot of different positions and schools. And he’s a great guy, so for all those reasons I think he’d make a great vice chair.”