MIAA aligns rulebooks with NFHS standards
FRANKLIN — In less than a minute Tuesday afternoon, the MIAA’s Board of Directors approved to adopt National Federation rules for football, girls’ and boys’ volleyball, and baseball for the 2019-20 school year.
The 10-1 vote, with one abstention, followed a 19-0 decision by the association’s Tournament Management Committee in March to use NFHS rules for all eligible sports, eliminating any inconsistencies — and risk of possible litigation.
“Change is hard,” acknowledged Bill Gaine, executive director of the MIAA. “Under the association, individually, this [change] has happened with half the sports. There has been backlash. But slowly, slowly, it has evolved . . . The unanimous vote by the TMC was significant.”
The opinions, inside and outside the Neal Room, and before and after the board’s first monthly meeting for 2018-19, were hardly unanimous.
Currently, only Massachusetts and non-parochial schools in New York utilize NCAA (women’s) volleyball rules. In football, the Bay State and Texas stand alone with the NCAA. On the diamond, coaches must be versed in the federation, NCAA, and Major League rulebooks. The change to federation rules will include the implementation of a pitch count, decided by the baseball committee.
Representing the officials on the MIAA volleyball committee, Ted Wilcox told the board in his allotted three (plus) minutes that the transition from NCAA (and USA Volleyball) rules would be devastating.
His primary concern: having enough officials up to speed on the rule changes by 2019.
“Who is going to train us?” asked Wilcox, who officiates NCAA and high school games.
Wilcox said the discussion will start after an NCAA training session for officials scheduled Saturday in Waltham.
Seated alongside, Sean MacDonald, girls’ coach at perennial Division 3 power Frontier Regional, as well as a certified official, noted “there are uniforms that are legal this year that will not be legal next year . . . let’s use the rules that are currently in place.”
MacDonald and Wilcox asked that the vote be postponed, stating that the issue deserved more discussion, contending that the volleyball committee had not been informed of the change. But with an eye on budgeting for 2019-20, Westford superintendent James Antonelli said it was important to start the process.
Representing the TMC , St. John’s Prep AD Jim O’Leary said football, volleyball, and baseball were the sports that were not consistent with the other MIAA sports.
“[The federation] addresses sportsmanship, and health and safety, in a specific way,” he said.
Legally, the TMC also had been advised that the MIAA could face the risk of a lawsuit without consistency in its rules policies.
“We need to be proactive here,” he said.
In volleyball, the NCAA and National Federation currently align on 91 of 116 rules, according to O’Leary.
Speaking directly to Wilcox and MacDonald, Gaine said, “Advocates, folks like you, we need you badly, all in the best interests of our kids.”
Afterward, Wilcox was still very concerned with the training aspect. But he was encouraged that the MIAA is willing to work with the volleyball committee, and others, on the transition. Modifications, prevalent in rule changes in other sports, will be considered.
In other meeting news:
■ Athletic directors Naomi Martin (Lexington) and Tom Arria (Cambridge Rindge and Latin) were welcomed on board, representing District B and A, respectively, for the start of their three-year terms, replacing Mike Lahiff (Watertown), now the AD at Matignon, and the recently-retired Barry Haley of Concord-Carlisle.
■ The board also approved a waiver to continue the Westborough girls’ basketball tournament, now 16 years running.
MIAA board of directors, 2018-19
Marilyn Slattery (president), house principal, Malden High
Jeff Granatino (vice president), superintendent, Marshfield High
James Antonelli, principal, Westford Academy
Tim Brillo, AD, Ludlow High
Jeff Caron, AD, Dartmouth High
Raymond Cosenza, AD, Fitchburg High
Keith Crowley, principal, St. John’s Prep
Charlie Flahive, MASC, Blue Hills Regional Technical
Tom Arria, AD, Cambridge Rindge & Latin
Thomas Holdgate, AD, Duxbury High
David King, assistant principal, Athol High
Naomi Martin, AD, Lexington High
Brian McCann, principal, Joseph Case High
Kathleen McSweeney, principal, Plymouth North High
Wesley Paul, principal, Oliver Ames High
Dan Shine, AD, Arlington Catholic High
James Pignataro, principal, Grafton High
Stephanie Sibley, principal, Excel High
Gordon Smith, superintendent, East Longmeadow Public Schools
Mark Sullivan, principal, Burlington High
Steven Trask, MASC, Tri-County RVTHS
Lindsey von Holtz, AD, Mount Greylock Regional High
John Vosburgh, principal, Taconic Regional High