Members of the MIAA board of directors got a brief overview during Wednesday’s virtual meeting of some highlights from the first statewide postseason tournaments from the fall.
However, given the MIAA’s ongoing focus and emphasis on equity across all sports, board members also raised a handful of red flags.
Most of the criticisms focused around some of the benefits afforded to participants of the football tournament and Super Bowl teams, compared with those from other fall championship sports. Among them were: Super Bowls played at Gillette Stadium vs. high school venues for other sports; Super Bowl teams exclusively having a championship breakfast last week at Gillette; and unique trophies awarded to the Super Bowl winners.
“We’ve definitely heard that, we’re definitely aware of it,” MIAA assistant director Sherry Bryant, liaison to the tournament management committee that oversees the statewide tournaments, told the board.
“The TMC subgroup did speak about it [Tuesday] but we’re speaking about it internally as well, and just looking at what is the purpose and intent, and what might be [the] best construct going forward.”
Overall, Bryant described the first foray into the statewide tournaments as “really positive,” noting participation was up across the state in number of teams and individual athletes.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be perfect, and we were going to learn from our first time through,” she said. “The hope in constructing this is that, like-sized schools playing like-sized schools were going to get better competition. And that’s really what we feel that we saw.”
▪ Executive director Bob Baldwin updated the board on the MIAA’s current policy for continued wearing of masks during indoor winter sports, even if not held on school grounds. The most recent guidance, sent to MIAA member schools late last month, “is consistent with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and set forth by the Commissioner of Education.”
“We are an entity that revolves around schools,” Baldwin said. “It makes no sense to do something contrary, that contradicts what goes on during the school day.”
Baldwin said he understands it’s not always ideal or practical for athletes to wear masks during competition, and that other New England states have differing policies. Also, he said, the guidance that allows for unmasking at schools with at least 80 percent vaccination rates can cause confusion when it comes to competing with other schools not above the threshold.
DESE has set Jan. 15 as the next date it will assess mask guidance for schools.
“It is my hope that maybe the winter will be the time that we transition,” Baldwin said, “but it’s just not yet.”
▪ Baldwin also discussed the future of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Council, which was created in 1950 and has a separate constitution from the rest of the MIAA. According to the MIAA website, the major functions of the MIAC are “to act on all rule change proposals, and to serve as an appellate body to the Eligibility Review Board or the Board of Directors.”
As part of his overall review of the association since taking over as executive director in September, Baldwin said he would like to examine a change to the outdated MIAA governance structure, giving the board of directors final say on rules changes. But doing so would require a vote of the MIAC to dissolve.
The board voted 22-0-0 to invite MIAC chair Maurice Hancock, a former Brockton school committee member, to the Feb. 9 meeting to discuss the topic. The Mass. Secondary School Athletic Directors Association, at its November meeting, voted 15-0-1 on separate motions recommending that the MIAC is dissolved, and to give the board of directors final authority in all matters related to Massachusetts interscholastic athletics.
“I think it’s important to ask . . . ‘Why do you exist?’” Baldwin said of the MIAC. “If we can determine a real positive why, then let’s move forward.”
▪ Based on a unanimous recommendation from the MIAA baseball committee, the board voted 20-0-0 to officially adopt the National Federation of High Schools rule instituting a 10-run mercy rule beginning after 4½ innings.
Jim Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.