Last Friday, principals from the Northeastern Conference member schools voted to allow Saugus High to leave the conference, effective for the 2013-14 schools year, for the Cape Ann League.
Saugus High athletic director first confirmed the news Friday afternoon with a post on the Saugus Athletics Twitter account. The Sachems will become the 13th member of the league, essentially taking the place of North Andover, which left the CAL this year for the Merrimack Valley Conference.
Nelson issued a statement to the Boston-area media this afternoon candidly explaining the rationale:
I am pleased to announce that Saugus High School is the newest member of the Cape Ann League. This past Friday the Northeastern Conference principals voted to allow Saugus High School to leave the conference effective next fall. The Cape Ann League had already approved this move a week prior. Principal Joe Diorio and I both believe that being a member of the Cape Ann League is the best situation for our student-athletes and we are excited to start this endeavor.
Though we highly respect the Northeastern Conference, we feel the Cape Ann League is better suited for Saugus High School. The two major reasons for this historic decision are simple: size and competitiveness. As of today, SHS has 699 students and the average size of the schools in the CAL is 678 students; as opposed to the NEC, where the average size school is over 1200. SHS is a Division 3 school and 10 of the 12 schools in the CAL are Division 3; as opposed to the NEC, where 9 of the 12 schools are either Division 1 or Division 2. Based on this fact, SHS has not experienced a great deal of success during the regular season. In fact, SHS has won only 2 NEC Championships (lacrosse 2008 & softball 2011) over the past six years. Though the CAL is also a highly competitive conference, we believe SHS will experience more in-season success based on the parity of the league and the size of all the schools in the conference.
Over the past year I have been in constant conversations with my coaches regarding this possible move and I have been getting their feedback on the pros and cons for their individual programs. As the Athletic Director, it is my job, and my responsibility to do what is best for all the athletes in my program and not to focus on just one team. With this said, and to the contrary of what many believe, this move to the CAL is not a decision based solely on football, but rather a decision on what is best for our overall athletic program.
I have heard comments that this move is based around football; which although this move will help our football program, it is not the driving force. Again, this decision is based on what we believe is best for all our student-athletes! I understand there are issues for some programs based on their strong tradition, such as hockey, and I completely respect these concerns and the tradition. I have given my word to my coaches that we will continue to play such NEC schools that have strong traditions in specific sports; such as Winthrop, Beverly, and Danvers in hockey.
I also understand the concerns that there is more travel involved in playing in the CAL, which is true; but it is not as bad as one would think. Many of the CAL schools are directly located off of I95 and one would be able to get to these schools in the same time frame as many of the NEC schools. Yes, the distance is further,but the time to get there is equivalent.
Overall, I am very grateful to the NEC, the CAL, the Saugus School Committee, and the MIAA for allowing this opportunity for our student-athletes. I believe this change will have a positive influence on our athletic program, on the town and, most importantly it will be beneficial for the student-athletes at Saugus High School.