For many years, Massachusetts relied on the often unfair championship games called Super Bowls. It was not until 2007 that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association began to stride toward having a state championship by instituting a playoff system to determine who reaches their region's Super Bowl.
League leaders voted 161-131 in favor of a plan that will cut down the number of regular season games to seven for playoff participants. The new format would work by scheduling playoff games in week eight, nine and 10.
Super Bowls have been intact in Massachusetts since 1972. It took 40 years to abolish the system and only a couple hours or so to enact a state championship format.
Schools eliminated from playoff contention will be at the mercy of the MIAA scheduling committee's point system to determine a fair matchup. My problem with this part of the pilot plan is how it sounds like nothing more than the high-school football version of the BCS.
A point system? I am all for high school athletes playing extra games, but it still seem funny to me that they really are playing for nothing more than pride. On the other side of the coin, some may say that the majority of teams are eliminated from playoff contention by week seven or eight.
That statement would be correct, but it just rubs me the wrong way when the league meets to determine which teams will play for meaningless games. For instance, if the committee sees fit, Ayer-Shirley might have to travel across the state to play a team on the South Shore. To put it bluntly, it is not fair to the athletic departments involved. As we all know, gas prices are high and schools are strapped for money. Playing an extra game that has no fundamental meaning to a season just because a committee set it up is absolutely ludicrous.
When I played football for Clinton from 2004-2008, there wasn't even a playoff system until my senior year, a year when we had a zero in our record, and it wasn't the good kind. The three years prior, if there had been a playoff system, we would have had a chance to compete. I am a bit torn on the recent decision to have a true state champion. Going to college in North Carolina, I was constantly asked by friends if I had ever competed for a state title in football. I had to awkwardly explain what the heck the high school equivalent of a Super Bowl was in Massachusetts
If your team is eliminated from the playoffs under the new plan, you too will be at the mercy of the committee hooray. I understand the thought process behind the consolation games, but why not allow the individual athletic departments determine who, they would like to face in exhibitions rather than a committee? I think the MIAA should release a list of teams who were eliminated from playoff contention in each of the six divisions to all athletic departments so they can set up their own games with each other. That would alleviate the uncertainty of how far they would have to travel for an exhibition game.
If you are like me, you enjoy your football with a side of turkey and all the fixings. Well, the MIAA promises that Thanksgiving Day rivalries will remain intact -- sort of. Semi-finals will occur the week before Thanksgiving in week 10 at neutral sites like soccer and field hockey currently do.
Teams competing in Super Bowls the following weekend will still have their Turkey Day contest, but what is the incentive for playing your starters and risking injury? The new system turns often hard-fought rivalry games into nothing more than a game of bump football.
This is just a two-year pilot program. If the league determines that the format is not successful after two seasons, it will be scrapped.
Now for the cool factor of this proposal: Massachusetts will have a state football champion! Since the realignment of divisions a couple of years back, Super Bowls have lost their luster. I recall seeing Clinton play Narragansett for a Super Bowl, and thought to myself how does that happen? Does that truly make you elite, if there are 19 other champs just like you? It is nothing more than the high school version of bowl games, without the wacky sponsors such as Beef O'Bradys.
The main takeaway from all this is that Massachusetts football players will help their recruiting stock from colleges. If you are part of a state playoff contender, it's logical that you'll get more looks than a player on a mediocre program. Teams eliminated from postseason play get a chance to tour parts of the Bay State they may have never seen before. While the system has its flaws, playing for a state championship at Gillette Stadium on the same turf as the Patriots sounds pretty sweet to me.
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