NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

October 27, 2012

Schools OK new playoff system

A Super Bowl title will become even more prestigious next fall.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association called a general assembly meeting yesterday morning at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School for the purpose of voting on a proposal for a new statewide football playoff system. The present member schools voted 161-131 in favor of the measure, amending the current playoff system which presently concludes with 19 regional Super Bowl games.

Starting next fall, six state championship games will cap the season.

The new alignment will take effect for the 2013 football season and, as approved, will be implemented as a two-year trial.

The most noticeable change for local high schools will be to the regular-season schedule. A three-week playoff bracket will be built into the system.

Teams statewide will be placed into six divisions of similar school sizes based on enrollment numbers. Teams will then be power-seeded into sectional playoff brackets following Week 7. Sections will be divided into four regions (North, South, Central and West).

Teams that fall below the playoff entry criteria will also be seeded into a sectional pool with other non-playoff opponents. The Week 8 through Thanksgiving schedule will see teams playoff teams battle playoff teams, and non-playoff teams battle non-playoff teams.

The biggest concern among athletic directors was that Thanksgiving Day rivalries would be lost. That will not be the case. Thanksgiving games will be preserved with traditional opponents. Post-Thanksgiving Tuesday night semifinal playoff games will be eliminated.

The state championship games will be played in one venue on one day. The MIAA is in the last year of its agreement with Gillette Stadium, which has hosted six Super Bowl games each December since 2007.

Under the current football playoff system, 74 teams continue to play after Thanksgiving Day. Starting next fall, there will be 12.

However, the total number of teams competing in the postseason tournament will increase statewide. As constituted, only conference champions participate in postseason play. With the move to a sectional format, multiple teams from a given conference will have the ability to play into December.

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