THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

MIAA to address sore spot

Smaller schools want dates at Gillette, too

By Bob Holmes
Globe Staff / February 10, 2011

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The Jan. 13 MIAA Board of Directors meeting had ended a few minutes earlier, and five people were left in the main conference room. As Shawsheen superintendent Charlie Lyons packed up, he spotted East Boston principal Mike Rubin across the room.

The conversation included football . . . and frustration. The two men represent constituencies that have a simple question: Why can’t we play at Gillette, too?

They may have an answer soon.

The MIAA Football Committee meets today in Franklin for the first time since the Dec. 4 Super Bowls, and that question is one of many on the agenda.

When Gillette Stadium became the primary host site for Super Bowls in 2007, it was understood that the facility could handle as many as six games in one day. The problem was that there were seven bowl games. And when the MIAA increased the number to eight in 2009, two had to be held at local colleges.

So who gets to play at Gillette? The original plan was to rotate games, even though it was understood that some of the games involving bigger schools with bigger crowds could never be “rotated’’ into a small college.

Brighton has played in three Super Bowls since 2007, but never at Gillette. The Bengals played at Stonehill in 2007, Bentley in 2009, and Curry last December. The only city school to play at Gillette was East Boston in 2007, and that was at the expense of Brighton. East Boston’s last bowl appearance was in 2009, when the Jets played at Bentley. And they had company. Brighton played Northeast there as well.

The vocational schools haven’t fared much better, with Greater Lawrence and Tri-County playing at Gillette in 2007 and ’08, respectively. But in 2009 and 2010, a total of five vocational schools earned Super Bowl berths, and all five played at college sites.

Lyons and Rubin want to know why.

“We want them there,’’ said MIAA football tournament director Jim O’Connor. “We absolutely want them there, but it would have to be a two-day solution.

“I would like to see a two-day tournament, with both days at Gillette, if it can be worked out with the Patriots. But does that meet the Patriots’ needs and would they be able to provide the services for two days? We don’t know that.

“And we’re aware that Central and Western Mass. are waiting patiently to have a state tournament at Gillette.’’

To understand the issue better, O’Connor suggested, don’t look at the high schools — look at the colleges.

In 2004, the Division 1 game between Brockton and Everett was held at Bentley. The crowd of better than 3,000 fans was more than the Waltham school had planned for.

“One of the main problems was parking,’’ said O’Connor. “Bentley holds around 3,000 and there was a crowd beyond 3,000. A great crowd turned out for that game. From our end, we realized we were putting a strain on the services Bentley could provide.’’

In 2006, the same thing happened at Stonehill, where Winthrop played Wareham. With a huge Winthrop turnout, Stonehill was overwhelmed.

“It was a great salute to Winthrop, but Stonehill can only seat 2,000,’’ said O’Connor, “and there were a lot of people having to stand around.’’

Stonehill and Bentley never complained, but O’Connor and the MIAA knew they had to be careful where they placed games. Rotating games at Gillette was fine, but the 2004 scenario at Bentley couldn’t be repeated. It was rotation with a wink.

This past December, Curry hosted the Shawsheen-Blue Hills Division 4 game, then the Brighton-Northeast Division 4A contest. Total attendance was approximately 1,800, perfect for the Milton campus.

“If you’re going to play two games back-to-back, 1,800 for the two games is ideal,’’ said O’Connor. “We’re sensitive to the needs of the colleges, that their day has to go as usual, with all they have planned on their campus.’’

At a Nov. 9 meeting, representatives of Division 4 and 4A — which include city and vocational schools — made their pitch to MIAA officials, including deputy director Bill Gaine, to play at Gillette. They were turned down.

Today they will try again, and Matt Trahan, president of the Massachusetts Vocational Athletic Directors Association, wants to be optimistic.

“I would hope they would take this opportunity to do the right thing,’’ said Trahan, also the Old Colony athletic director. “We pay our MIAA dues just like everyone else. It’s not fair and equitable, and now is their opportunity to get it right.’’

Bob Holmes can be reached at rholmes@globe.com.