For the 291 football-playing MIAA schools, this is definitely a new year. An October 2012 vote created a state-wide playoff system, and after months of fine-tuning, it’s ready to roll.
The format will increase the number of playoff participants and reduce the number of Super Bowls. It may also increase anxiety and confusion among fans.
We may not have all the answers, but what follows should help you understand the new football landscape. A calculator wouldn’t hurt, either.
How it works
Instead of 19 regional Super Bowls spread across EMass, CMass, and WMass, there will be six this season. Instead of just 32 EMass teams playing in the postseason, 112 will compete this fall. Each of the six Super Bowl games will be played at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 7. Here’s a look at the new alignments:
Division 1: Only the 24 EMass schools will compete for the state title. Fourteen of the 24 were in Division 1 last fall, five in Division 1A, and five in Division 2. Brockton is the largest school (2,265 boys), Catholic Memorial the smallest (567). CM would also be the smallest school in Division 2. Catholic Conference schools have won four of the last five Division 1 titles.
Division 2: With Durfee the largest school (1,124 boys) and East Longmeadow the smallest (451), this state-wide division features EMass schools that were in four different divisions last fall, including seven league champions. It also includes Nashoba, owners of the state’s longest active win streak (26), Division 1 CMass champion Leominster, and Division 1 WMass winner Springfield Central.
Division 3: The other division limited to just EMass schoools, these 46 schools will be divided into Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, and Southwest sectionals. Schools were spread across Divisions 1A, 2, 2A, 3, and 3A last fall. Revere (766 boys) is the largest school, Wayland (436) the smallest.
Division 4: The 32 EMass schools (split between North and South) join with 13 CMass schools and 8 from WMass. Of last year’s three Division 4 champions, only Grafton returns to the same division. And the EMass sectionals are wide open. Only three of the 32 teams, Amesbury, Lynnfield, and Westwood, made the playoffs last fall.
Division 5: Call this the diverse division, with Boston schools, vocational schools, large schools (Greater Lowell at 1,104) and small schools (Springfield Cathedral at 191). Thirty are from EMass, 14 from CMass, 12 from WMass. Neither of last year’s Division 5 winners (Upper Cape and West Boylston) are in this division this fall.
Division 6: This division existed only in CMass last fall and Blackstone Valley is back to defend its title, this time with competition from 69 other schools. The largest Division 6 school, Diman with 768 boys, is bigger than two Division 1 schools (CM and Central Catholic). The smallest football school in the state plays here, St. Joseph Central of Pittsfield with just 72 boys.
Crunch time on Oct. 27
Oct. 27 will be a very busy day in Franklin. The state’s 291 schools will be split into two groups, playoff teams, and non-qualifiers. MIAA tournament directors will seed the playoff teams and release the pairings on the website. And separate MIAA Scheduling Committees will take the non-qualifiers, seed them, and create a schedule for week 8. Here’s a timeline for the last Sunday in October.
Noon -- Each league is required to forward their league’s automatic qualifiers and final league power ratings to the MIAA by noon.
2 p.m.* -- The tentative time for the seeding meeting. Tentative, because if there are weather postponements it would have to take place after 4 p.m.
4 p.m. -- If games are postponed due to weather on Oct. 26, the game must be played on the 27th and the results must be submitted to the MIAA by 4 p.m.
6 p.m. -- If a school decides to appeal the scheduling committee’s Week 8-10 non-playoff opponent, the appeal must be submitted to the Scheduling Committee chair by 6 p.m.
How will your school’s power rating be determined? You’ll need a calculator, for starters. There are two numbers involved, your value and your opponent’s value.
12 points for a win over a team in a higher division.
10 points for a win over a team in the same division.
8 points for a win over a team in a lower division.
3 points for every win by an opponent that you have beaten.
1 point for every win by an opponent that you have lost to.
Ties are half the value (1.5 points or .5 points).
(Own value + opponents value) /number of games played.
Who’s caught short?
The one thing you don’t want to be this fall is a very good second-place team in the Old Colony League or the Big Three. That’s because the new system favors leagues with five or more teams.
For example, say Brockton and Barnstable each go 7-0 to win the Big Three and OCL titles. According to the format, each qualifies for the postseason. But what if New Bedford and Bridgewater-Raynham go 6-1 and finish second? Despite the impressive record — and probable high power rating — the odds would be against each making the postseason.
That’s because the second-place finisher in three-team leagues like the OCL and Big Three would have to qualify for the divisional bracket as a wild card. In order to get the eight teams in a divisional bracket, the first-place finishers will be placed first followed by the second-place finishers. If the total number of first and second-place finishers is less than eight teams, the remaining spots will be filled by the highest power rated wild-card teams (in our example, B-R and New Bedford).
Once these eight teams have been established in each division, they will then be seeded by the power rating system. The good news? If a wild-card team does make the cut, it could be seeded higher than an automatic qualifying team.
On the hot seat
Not in the postseason? Following are the individuals and committees that will decide the schedules for schools that do not qualify for the postseason, as well as for teams eliminated from the playoffs in November.
Lynn English Athletic Director
Malden Athletic Director
Burlington Athletic Director
Two District H representatives
Bishop Feehan Athletic Director
Bishop Stang Principal
District C representative
Two District H representatives
Shrewsbury Athletic Director
Fitchburg Athletic Director
Four league representatives
Athol Athletic Director
Drury Assistant Principal
Hoosac Valley Athletic Director
Five league representatives