On Friday, the 380 Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association member schools will vote on whether to adopt a statewide tournament format for the high school postseasons.
The statewide tournament proposal would do away with the current four-section format — North, South, Central, and West, with some exceptions in sports such as lacrosse and girls’ volleyball — and throw the entire state into one pool. Sports would be split into divisions based on how many schools participate — the proposal calls for any sport with 275 or more teams to have five divisions, 200-274 teams would be four divisions, etc. — with individual MIAA sports committees able to make recommendations to the Tournament Management Committee if they believe a different number of divisions would work better for that sport.
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The Globe asked two athletic directors with differing viewpoints to explain why they are in favor or against the statewide measure.
Glenn Doulette, athletic director at West Springfield High School
The state tournament proposal is not in the best interest of West Springfield High School’s students, programs and community.
The decision we made is filtered through the best interest of our student-athletes. The current proposal does not clearly define sectional championships; in fact, it charges the creation of them to the various sections with no direction, exemplars, and guidance within the framework of the proposed system.
The lack of clarity and support on the development of sectionals is a significant cause for concern. Winning a Western Mass. title is an accomplishment with historic and local “prestige” and lack of a realistic plan to maintain it is shortsighted.
West Side school history shows that we have been successful at the sectional and state levels, but taking away sectionals will diminish what we feel is an experience that our student-athletes remember, cherish and value as much as they do the prestige of a state championship.
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Ron Drouin, athletic director at Tewksbury High School
I am in favor of the Statewide Tournament format because the format puts schools where they belong based on enrollment. The situation we had in football a year ago, playing in the [Division 3] Super Bowl against Springfield Central is wrong! They are nearly 2.5 times bigger than us, and our current enrollment numbers are 842 total students.
The current football system is broken; teams do not play the same number of games, some divisions have a crossover game, and this format creates an equal playing field from a size perspective and the number of games needed to win the state championship.
Travel has been brought up quite a bit, and we have been traveling extensively, especially with girls’ hockey. We had numerous trips to the Cape over the last four years; it is part of the deal. If you have good programs, travel comes with the territory.
As a smaller school in a larger-sized league [the Merrimack Valley Conference], I look forward to the flexibility I think it will create for all our teams.
Our stronger programs will be able to schedule whoever they choose, without much worry, and still accumulate a quality power ranking through MaxPreps. Our programs that struggle a bit have the option to schedule looking for 10 wins to qualify for postseason play.
I think it is the best of both worlds.
Related: What can we learn from how other states handle their playoff tournaments?