Two conferences may split from new MIAA football tournament

The Northeastern Conference and Merrimack Valley Conference are considering pulling out of the MIAA football tournament and having their own one-game playoff, according to Les Murray, former Amesbury principal and current secretary-treasurer of the NEC-Cape Ann League.

That wasn’t the only news to shake the Franklin organization Thursday; MIAA executive director Dick Neal told athletic directors and principals in an e-mail that he is retiring after 35 years.

Merrimack Valley Conference officials approached the Northeastern Conference about the idea of splitting from the MIAA’s new postseason format, and Beverly principal Sean Gallagher presented details of the plan to NEC athletic directors at a meeting Nov. 30.

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The NEC Large would play the MVC Large and the MVC Small would play the NEC Small after the 11-game regular season. Because it’s a 12th game, it would require approval of the MIAA board of directors, much like the board-approved and recently held State Vocational Bowls.

According to Murray, Gallagher and the MVC could meet today to continue discussions. The next step would be a vote by the MVC. The NEC meets Dec. 14 to hear what the MVC status is.

If the NEC joins with the MVC, it would take 24 teams out of the MIAA North tournament.

The move by the two North Shore leagues — the Cape Ann League would remain in the MIAA tournament — comes after the Oct. 26 vote that approved a new football playoff system. The new format includes a seven-week regular season that leads to three weeks of playoff games, stopping short of Thanksgiving, then resuming with six Super Bowls scheduled for Dec. 7 next year.

The MVC was believed to be strongly opposed to the plan. The NEC was concerned about the loss of traditional rivalries as well as the power-rating system and Thanksgiving games.

“Change is going to come here and it’s going to be interesting,’’ said Murray. “One of the things that’s not being discussed is that this is the only sport that you continue to play if you lose in the tournament. Every other sport plays its entire season before starting the tournament.’’

Murray was referring to what happens to teams that qualify for the playoffs but lose in the early rounds. He also said schools were concerned about the power-rating system he called “a moving target” as far as scheduling opponents to get the maximum points.