There were plenty of options, but no decisions on Tuesday morning when the MIAA Football Committee got together to proposals for a potential statewide football playoff. Five different proposals were put forth to the committee, including two developed by athletic directors of the Merrimack Valley Conference and the Middlesex League. No decision was made, however, with the committee agreeing discuss the proposals further, and hopefully come to a decision as to which one to adopt when they reconvene at their next meeting in January.
The two proposals put forth by the MVC and the Middlesex League, along with the Boston City League and the Dual County League were presented to the committee by MIAA associate executive director Richard Pearson. One plan had a seven-week season followed by playoffs involving the top 16 teams in each division, while the second proposal offered an eight-game regular season in which the top eight in each division competed for a Super Bowl title.
One of the key aspects of each of these proposals is that Super Bowl games would be played the week before Thanksgiving Day games, therefore allowing the football season to end earlier than it has in the past, that way it would not interfere with the start of the winter season, as it has in recent years.
Among the most popular proposals put before the committee came from Milton High Football coach Steve Dembowski, who proposed a plan that calls for ten games to be played in a 12-week window with the regular season ending on Thanksgiving, followed by a playoff in which the top eight teams in each division would advance.
The quarterfinals would be played on Tuesday following Thanksgiving, with the semifinals going that Sunday and the championships to be played on the ensuing Saturday at a neutral field.
Dembroski stated that this plan was the preferred plan of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association.
According to Danny Ventura of the Boston Herald, Demboswki stated “We polled the coaches association and of the 90% which responded, more than 70% were in favor,” said Dembowski. “This plan (based off the Connecticut model which has been in existence for a decade) gives us a longer regular season which would eliminate consolation games and makes Thanksgiving Day games relevant again.
“Eight teams in each division would advance to the playoffs. Of that, 32 of them would be eliminated on the following Tuesday, which means a limited amount of schools would be affected in terms of winter sports.”
That would be the good news of Dembowski’s proposal. The bad news would be that even if it were just a few schools, it would mean that the football season would be infringing on the start of the winter season, which is something football coaches are trying to avoid, given the negative reaction from winter coaches in the past.
Still, however, as Dembowski said, most coaches seem to endorse his proposal. One such coach was Dennis-Yarmouth principal Paul Funk, the former head football coach at the school.
“In looking at the proposals, the only one which does make Thanksgiving Day relevant again is Steve Dembowski’s proposal,” Funk told the Herald. “We need to lessen the amount of teams in the playoffs and minimize the impact on winter sports which Steve’s plan does.”
One final proposal, known as The Mount Greylock Plan suggested having a nine-game regular season and an earlier start to the season, with the season kicking off before Labor Day. The regular season would end on the final weekend of October and only teams that qualified for the playoffs would continue. The problem with the plan, however, is that many schools would have a three week layoff before playing their Thanksgiving Day game.
In regards to impacting the start of the winter season, Shrewsbury High athletic director Jay Costa suggested the possibility of simply pushing back the start of the winter season, as well as the spring season, in order to accommodate a longer football season.
Football Committee chairman Jim Pignataro, stated that a survey should be sent out to schools asking which potential playoff format prefer, while Costa suggested they also survey coaches regarding the delay of the start of the winter and spring seasons.