It’s disconcerting to learn that, just a few months after Massachusetts Interscholastic Association schools from across the state approved a new high school football playoff format, 10 schools in the Northeastern Conference — including Gloucester — voted last week to pull out of the deal and instead set up their own two-conference playoff with the Merrimack Valley Conference.
So it was good to hear that, a day later, the MVC’s athletic directors voted not to have anything to do with the withdrawal. While there are questions regarding the MIAA format, the new system — with seven regular-season games followed by a series of playoffs — would achieve an important goal. It would give more student-athletes on more teams the chance to compete for the MIAA’s Super Bowl championships. What’s wrong with that?
If Gloucester High and its Northeastern Conference (NEC) allies follow through with a plan to either set up their own playoff or “bowl game” format with the MVC or any other conference, the Fishermen’s 2010 Super Bowl championship would be the school’s last, and its players the last to play on New England’s most hallowed turf, Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium. That’s right. If Gloucester or any other NEC team decided to merely play another conference champ in their own renegade playoffs, they would not be eligible for the MIAA Super Bowls. And that, frankly, would be a shame.
Will the MIAA’s new format diminish traditional rivalries, such as Gloucester vs. Danvers? Will it mean the Fishermen might not play some other schools they’ve faced in the past? Maybe. But chances are, Gloucester and Danvers athletes and coaches would still appreciate their Thanksgiving game for the holiday classic it is. If Gloucester has to step up its schedule to face new opponents under the MIAA’s qualifying point system, that’s fine, too.
Yes, the new MIAA playoff system poses some hurdles. But it will open the state championship competition door to more schools than ever before. Let’s give it a chance before pulling a North Shore coup.