A new tool to determine MIAA alignments will be implemented starting with the current alignment cycle, which will go into effect for the 2023-24 school year.
The formula, presented at Thursday’s virtual board of directors meeting, will be based on competitive equity. Previously, enrollment was used as a baseline, with factors such as co-ops and vocational status moving a school up or down.
“The goal for this equity tool is to remove as much subjectivity as possible by using real, measurable data,” said Jared Shannon, Wahconah athletic director and vice chair of the MIAA’s Tournament Management Committee.
The equity formula focuses on stability and high-needs numbers, as reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and would create a baseline alignment that schools can then appeal. Data points include English language learners, public assistance, SNAP, transitional aid, MassHealth, homelessness, and foster care, among others.
Shannon pointed to the flaws in using enrollment to determine divisions, noting that a school with 1,300 students might have 250 athletes, while another school with 500 students might have 300 athletes.
“We are looking to create a better way to determine the real population that schools are drawing from to build their teams,” he said. “This equity tool moves the needle dramatically in the right direction. We recognize this tool is not perfect. It will be tweaked over time.”
Fitchburg athletic director Craig Antocci, who spent two-plus years creating the formula with Chicopee AD Sean Mackin, said it’s a matter of fairness.
“We conflate the ideas of equity and equality and … that’s not helpful to our member schools and districts,” Antocci said. “The idea of using baseline enrollment without factoring in external factors impacts districts around the state. That’s taking an equal measure and it’s not fair. Equity is about looking at each district and demographic and treating it fairly so we can all start at the same point.”
One issue with the equity formula is that private schools do not report the underlying data to DESE, but Shannon said power-rankings data would be used to determine the strength of their programs. Questions were raised about free and reduced lunch numbers, which Shannon said are “not meaningfully factored in.”
Quabbin athletic director Mark Miville added that the competitive equity formula has already been implemented in the Mid-Wach League.
“It really has worked,” Miville said. “We’ve had a lot less movement within our league. A lot of people were very skeptical at first and it has come to show that it’s a very fair tool.”
Other business from the board meeting:
▪ Ice hockey rule 72.12, which removes a player for the remainder of the state tournament following a game disqualification, was suspended for the 2022-23 season by a unanimous vote, with one abstention. A rule that suspends a player for two games following a game disqualification will still be in place.
“In our language, we have two conflicting penalties,” noted MIAA director Bob Baldwin.
The long-term fate of the rule is still to be decided.
Arlington Catholic AD Dan Shine, who recently retired after 43 seasons as the school’s hockey coach, supported suspending the rule. It had been implemented in the 1980s when “ice hockey was out of control,” he said, and that “it helped clean up the game.”
▪ A motion to approve TEC Connections Academy, an online public school that applied for MIAA enrollment, was tabled until the board’s Oct. 26 meeting. Concerns were raised that TECCA could recruit top athletes from around the state.
“I think it’s going to open a Pandora’s box,” said East Bridgewater superintendent Elizabeth Legault. “My concern is if someone finds a loophole, they will pick these kids in seventh and eighth grade, say ‘Go to TECCA — you can stay home and do your schooling and then you can play ball.’ ”
The MIAA is currently facing a lawsuit pertaining to a TECCA student who wanted to play lacrosse at Duxbury.
▪ Online ticketing will be required for tournament games from the Round of 16 on, following a unanimous vote. Information and workarounds will be provided for schools that are unable to fully implement.
“We feel online ticketing is the way we want to go, 100 percent,” said Henderson principal Stephanie Sibley. “We feel it brings a better level of accountability at the gate.”
▪ The board voted unanimously to set aside $20,000 in the budget from the Endowment Fund, $18,000 of which will go toward $1,000 scholarships for each of the 18 Scholar-Athlete of the Month Award winners, starting this month. The remainder will be used for special requests from schools.
Brendan Kurie can be reached at email@example.com.