FRANKLIN -- Even with the biggest hurdle yet to come, a 10-4 vote in favor of a state-wide football playoff system by the Tournament Management Committee Thursday included something usually missing from an MIAA meeting -- a celebration.
It wasnít a wild, cork-popping affair, but rather an acknowledgment by all that football players across the state are one step closer to joining their soccer, field hockey, and volleyball playing classmates in a playoff system that will allow greater participation and produce a real state champion.
"It's been a long haul and I think itís a great opportunity," said Kathleen McSweeney, TMC chair and Plymouth North principal. "I think itís a step in the right direction."
McSweeney, who also chaired the ad hoc committee that produced the proposal that was voted down at the annual meeting in 2010, immediately texted her vice-principal Bill Burkhead after the vote. It was Burkhead, as Plymouth Northís athletic director, who was a key figure in crafting the last proposal. And it may have been that failed proposal thatís helping propel this one along.
"Yes, all the work that we went through really laid the foundation," McSweeney said. "I think it got people thinking differently, that it really is possible to take a look at what's best for kids and best for football."
But the vote wasn't unanimous.
"I have financial concerns as a high school principal," said Tantasqua principal Mike Lucas. "Budgets are always tough. I'm concerned about the loss of local rivalries. But I felt like I got to ask my questions today and they were answered for the most part. I represent Central Mass and the dissolving of Division 3, you now have more schools that are mismatched size-wise playing each other and to me that's a concern."
St. Peter-Marian assistant principal Rich Riley supported the proposal.
"Football is a unique sport," said Riley. "I can appreciate the thorough study the Football Committee presented us. I think they addressed all the major and many of the minor concerns from two years ago. They did their homework and I think itís worth trying such a playoff proposal."
But as any veteran follower of the MIAA knows, one committee is usually followed by another. Next up for the proposal is the June 7 meeting of the MIAAís board of directors. The options available to the 18-member board are many. It can vote to support the proposal, defeat it, push it to a vote of the annual meeting in March of 2013, or, if they have questions, throw it back to the TMC to get answers at their June 18 meeting. And since itís a two-year pilot, they could even vote to delay the start until 2014.
But for now, the work of the State Football Coaches Association and the MIAA Football Committee appears over.
"Pretty much. It will really fall into the hands of the board in how they want to deal with it," said Football Committee chair and Ipswich principal Barry Cahill. "But I think it's time and we have a good enough plan so that itís worth them supporting it."
And for Cahill, who is retiring this summer after 26 years as a principal, his last grade was a good one. The committeeís task was to convince the TMC it was worth their support and they did.
"The grade was pretty good," said McSweeney. "They get an A."
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