FRANKLIN — The two-year process formulating a much-discussed, much-debated all-sport statewide tournament in the state of Massachusetts is nearing the finish line.
The MIAA’s Tournament Management Committee will finalize its proposal later this month in advance of a formal presentation to the association’s Board of Directors in early December.
A special assembly of the association’s 380 member schools will be scheduled for early 2020 for a formal vote, targeting a fall 2021 launch, in line with the TMC’s divisional realignment plans.
“The proposal was well received at the district workshops this fall,” said TMC chair Jim O’Leary, formerly the athletic director at St. John’s Prep.
But there is still plenty of healthy debate as the process evolves.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, Arlington Catholic athletic director Dan Shine engaged in a spirited back-and-forth with O’Leary and fellow TMC member Johanna DiCarlo, the AD at Westborough High. Following up from last month’s dialogue at a TMC meeting, Shine questioned the committee’s decision a year ago (and approved by the board) to move non-public schools, such as Arlington Catholic, up one division in the new alignment.
“I’m looking for data that supports your decision,” said Shine.
“There is data,” said O’Leary, before returning to the room a few minutes later with a stack of paperwork. “We’re just aiming for consistency.”
Then Shine turned to tournament revenue, and the potential financial hit of added travel for early-round games, for example No. 1 Dracut vs. No. 32 Ludlow or No. 4 Agawam vs. No. 29 Bishop Fenwick, both in Division 2 softball, that is part of the TMC’s module for a projected seeding.
“We will have much more matchups of programs with like quality, regardless of where it is played,” said DiCarlo. “The quality of the experience will be much better.”
Shine countered, “There will be a shortfall of teams playing each other from a huge distance apart.”
DiCarlo, responding forcefully, “The [tourney] matchups have not been great for a while. It would be shortminded to think that there would no financial hardship. But we are confident enough that the interest in the tournament will drive attendance [at tourney games] up.”
Shine, a member of the Hockey Committee for 30-plus years, expressed concern for the future of the association’s sport-specific committees with the empowerment of the TMC.
“The standing [sport] committees are the guts of this organization,” he said.
O’Leary, emphasizing partnership, said there will still be important work to do for all.
And that is what is ahead, more work — before the implementation of MaxPrep power seeding, five statewide divisions for all sports (pending appeals), et al. All for the betterment of the student-athlete, and hopefully, spectator experience. Stay tuned.
■ In other business, the board denied an appeal from Quabbin Regional regarding a decision by executive director Bill Gaine to levy a two-game suspension on boys’ basketball coach Dennis Dextradeur for an out-of-season violation regarding contact with players. Quabbin conducted a thorough investigation, according to principal Greg Devine, and self-reported the violation to the MIAA, following up with a three-pronged local reprimand. The district felt it took a corrective action, focusing on the learning experience. The appeal was denied, 13-4.
■ Technology Committee members Bob Rodgers (Whitman-Hanson AD) and Eric Scott (Medfield AD) gave a strong endorsement for transitioning to the Arbiter system for scheduling games, officials, game management, etc., asking that the system be put in place statewide.
■ Pending the approval of the full board, Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett was approved as a member of the association.
Craig Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org