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Saturday, October 27, 2012
Coaches, ADs react to new MIAA football playoff

By ESPNBoston.com

Friday morning, a monumental shift in the MIAA football landscape was voted in by a special general assembly, which calls for the doing away of regional Super Bowls after 40 years of existence, replaced by a playoff system that will crown true state champions in six divisions.

ESPN Boston High Schools editors Brendan Hall and Scott Barboza, and a team of correspondents spoke to some of the state's coaches and athletic directors throughout the day for their feedback on the new playoff system. Here are the best of the bunch:

Bruce Rich
Head Coach, Chelmsford High School


"Well first of all, I don't know how they determine who goes into Division 1 and who goes into Division 2. In every sport, it's by enrollment. Somehow in football, they decided to take three, four, five teams, and put them up in to Division 1, when they clearly have Division 2 enrollment. This was done last summer. For instance, in our league, Haverhill, whose enrollment is much larger than ours, they go to Division 2. They beat us this year. They're 5-2 and having a great year, they get to go in Division 2, and we go in Division 1. That doesn't make sense."

"It should just be straight enrollment, it's the simplest thing they could do. I don't understand how they come up with some of the numbers that they have."

If that was his only problem with the proposal
"I have another problem. The powers that be, the MIAA and the tournament committee, are mostly Catholic Conference people that are calling the shots and getting a lot of those votes. This tournament obviously solves their problem because they generally have a hard time scheduling, getting non-league games. So this is certainly taking care of that problem for them. Obviously for the MIAA it's about the money and it's about making more money with the tournament and more tournament games. The old format, I thought was good, at the end of the day, it's schools being recognized for great effort."

"It's going to destroy leagues. Our league, the Merrimack Valley, is falling apart because of the fact that we only get to play seven games. We have an 11 team league. So it's hurt our league as well."

"Today, if we hadn't made the playoffs coming into this game (against Andover), this would've been a meaningless game. For the next two weeks, it would've been the same thing, more meaningless games as well. It's fundamentally wrong."

If there was any part of the plan that he felt would effect Chelmsford specifically
"We're a Division 2 size, we belong in Division 2. Lincoln-Sudbury goes Division 2, Westford Academy goes Division 2? Those schools are larger than us. Haverhill beats us head-to-head, they're in Division 2? It doesn't make sense. There's coaching staff change, kids change, so if you're going to use parity, go by what's happened most recently, and that would be at the end of this season, determine who goes into what division next year."

Tom Lopez
Head Coach, Lincoln-Sudbury High
Former President, Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA)


“I was the former President of the association and I am on the committee and I was for the vote. I do not think it answers all the questions but I think not to try it for two years is ridiculous. I think we should try it for two years and if it does not work then we can look at something new or go back to where we are. My strong feeling is that Westford is an outstanding team and Acton is too. One of us is going to the playoffs this year. It exposes more kids to tournament play and it gives you a state championship. In two years you can ask me again and I may say it was a dumb idea but I will still be glad we tried it.”

Mike Pucko
Head Coach, Holy Name Central Catholic High School


“I love the fact that there’s gonna be a state playoff system, but it’s not good for us because we’re going to have a hard time finding teams to schedule. I really wanted to see a state palyoff, but the way it’s set up with a seven-game limit, teams are going to play league games, and we don’t have much of a league anymore – it’s just St. John’s, St. Peter-Marian and us. It’s gonna be interesting for me to see what happens.”

On filling his schedule with teams from out of region
“We’re gonna have to go to Boston I assume. Somehow we’ll have to get into one of the Catholic leagues. Obviously though, we can’t play with Xaverian, what with us having less than 200 boys in our school.”

On if attempting to join the Catholic Central League is a possibility
“That’s gonna be up to the AD [Jim Manzello]. Realistically, you look at yourself and where you fit in, Mid-Wach is going to play Mid-Wach, Southern Worcester County is going to play Southern Worcester County, the Inter-High schools other than Doherty and Burncoat are not gonna want to play us, so where does that leave us?”

James Coffey
Athletic Director, Beverly High School


"I actually thought it was going to be a closer vote. I could tell Central Mass and Western Mass very for it, they were fully alert here and all in attendance. It is what it is, we'll go play ball next year and see what happens."

On how the Northeastern Conference will determine scheduling
"I think we're going to have to get in a room now and figure out the scheduling based on the flexibility in the scheduling and how you'll do it in your league. I think we've got to get in a room together and figure it out."

On gate receipt concerns pointed out by other athletic directors
"To be honest, I didn't think too much about the whole gate piece of it. Win, lose or draw, at least in Beverly, we draw pretty well with Saturday afternoon games, so we didn't consider it all to much. Now that there might be a playoff game at home, it might help."

Matt Triveri
Athletic Director, Head Coach, Mashpee High School


"We were one of those teams that were 10-1 at one point and missed out on going to the playoffs, much like East Bridgewater last year, and we've had years where 9-2 didn't get us in. It's best for the kids in the end."

On the speculation of more teams switching leagues
"There's probably going to be some movement, probably not a ton, but I think the movement for everyone is, South Coast [Conference] needs one more to make it 10 teams and split into Large and Small [divisions]. South Shore League, our league, needs two more, to go Large and Small. Everybody's going to be jumping for that. If you don't get it, you're going to approach someone else."

Ray Cosenza
Athletic Director, Fitchburg High School

"I'm thrilled. It's been a long road, not just the last couple of times, it seems like we've been at this for a long time. I just think we needed change, we'll have to tweak this, but I think this is a step in the right direction. I'm thrilled the vote won. I thought it was going to be close. I don't even know what the difference was. I just heard '161' and just waited to hear whether it was in favor or against. I'm thrilled, and I'm happy because a lot of people worked and put in a lot of time on it, and I think this is what's best for our kids."

Peter Colombo
Head Coach, Brockton High School


"We voted for it, so I'm happy about it. We've already been discussing with coach Palazzi about whether we can keep this thing going. I guess it will depend on who is available out of the games we traditionally played. We'll have to see if they're open on weeks we can get together, but we'll figure it out. We've been a team that has had to morph as things have changed in our world and we're prepared to change again."

Dave Palazzi
Head Coach, Leominster High School

"It is what it is. We're excited either way. I think everybody is a little bit nervous but I think it might pan out where teams kind of end up playing the same teams (that they play now) anyway. The only stipulation that got people nervous was playing your Thanksgiving opponent during the year. Even if you play a team twice, it could still happen the other way, you're just playing them after a playoff game. You can still play a team two times in a row - which we did with Fitchburg last year on Thanksgiving and again in the playoffs.

"It's a two year thing. Look at baseball when they first did the wild cards. All the traditionalists were dead set against that. I'm kind of in the middle on it and I can argue either way depending on the mood I'm in, but inevitably we're playing football. If you're the best team, you'll win all your games and you'll go to a state championship. The one thing I do love about it is every other sport has a state champion and this will allow that to happen."

Don Johnson
Head Coach, North Attleborough High School


“We’re happy about it. I think it’s good for Massachusetts football. I think there are some problems we need to work out and it’s going to take a couple years maybe to tweak it a little bit. But we’ve got some decision to make in our own league. We don’t want to diminish our Thanksgiving rivalry with Attleboro in any way, so we’ve got see if the league would be willing to somehow arrange the schedule so that we don’t have to play them twice.”

“We have to work it out quick because teams will be diving in, looking for opponents and schedule those non-league games, with the rating system back in play, scheduling becomes so much more important.”

Correspondents Andy Smith, Ryan Kilian, John Botelho and Corey Allen contributed to this report.