MIAA football committee weighs options for high school football schedule, playoffs

Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2020 8:09:20 PM

The MIAA football committee met on Tuesday and discussed the structure for the 2021 fall season.

Four proposals were presented to the committee during a conference call, each attempting to find a way to reshape the season to eliminate meaningless, consolation games at the end of the year. The goal is reignite the importance of Thanksgiving games, while also figuring out how many teams qualify for the playoffs under the new statewide tournament format.

One proposal preferred by the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) includes a 10-game regular season concluding with Thanksgiving games, followed by an eight-team playoff.

This proposal is based on the current plan in Connecticut, which also has Thanksgiving games. Schools schedule 10 games during a 12-week window, with each team scheduling a bye between weeks 4-6 and 11-12. The eight highest teams in each newly aligned division would then qualify for the postseason tournament, which would run after Thanksgiving.

This plan eliminates what the committee calls “meaningless games” for nonplayoff teams later in the season. The plan also makes each Thanksgiving game meaningful, as playoff implications could still be on the line. However, the plan limits rest before and after Thanksgiving games, and teams that reach the state finals would miss the first week of winter sports.

Another option preferred by the MHSFCA is a nine-game regular season followed by an eight-team playoff.

Each school would schedule nine games in nine weeks, not including Thanksgiving, with the regular season ending after the ninth week. The eight highest seeded teams in each division qualify for the postseason, with the non-qualifying teams having the option to play a consolation game during week 10 or take a bye before Thanksgiving. The playoffs would begin one week after the regular season ended.

This plan offers a longer postseason qualifying period than the current format, as well as eliminating the need for late-season consolation games. However, it doesn’t give any meaning to the Thanksgiving games.

The other two plans started the season earlier so the regular season and postseason was completed before Thanksgiving. The main difference between the two were different starting points and bye weeks.

The committee debated the feasibility of moving to a 16-team playoff field instead of the proposed eight. With a 16-team field, 44 percent of teams would qualify for the postseason, whereas just 22 percent would qualify for an eight-team field.

Proponents of an eight-team field argued that it will be only the best teams competing, making for more competitive games. Detractors felt that an eight-team field would leave out some good teams, and they didn’t want to see a team finish 6-3 and not qualify for the playoffs.

The committee plans on sending out a survey about the proposals before meeting next month.

As for the upcoming football season slated to begin during the “Fall II” season, modifications will be put in place with the hope that they will be voted on by the MIAA by the end of January, giving coaches and players clarity on what the season will look like, how many games will be played and how the game will look on the field.

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