Next realignment tool pitched to the MIAA

FRANKLIN — On a rain-soaked Thursday morning, the MIAA came together for its latest virtual call. In the 100 minutes that followed, the primary focus became apparent — how does the state and the association plan to address its next realignment, which is scheduled for Fall 2023?

One of the first topics of discussion involved the implementation of a ‘competitive equity tool,’ an idea that originally came to fruition through the efforts of Chicopee athletic director Sean Mackin, as well as Fitchburg AD Craig Antocci. The plan is finding out which divisions schools truly belong in through the use of athletic population data. The model was recently used by many different Central Mass. schools to determine local leagues and tournaments with great success.

As of now, it appears many MIAA officials are in agreement on making this a statewide tool. It’s not a question of when the process will take hold, but rather when. There are a variety of factors to consider, but essentially, small schools that consistently compete for titles due to increased athletic participation could move up a division or two, while larger schools that don’t compete and have fewer student athletes could drop, in theory.

One of the main supporters of the tool is Wahconah AD Jared Shannon, who gave a detailed analysis of the plan to the board.

“In layman’s terms, this tool is going to allow us to create a way to determine what the real population is in every school that they have to draw athletes from,” said Shannon. “We’re going to use data that’s presented to DESE to kind of create a way to weight the population of each school, and how to more equitably align them. That’s the goal.”

Other primary topics for debate included a series of changes to the MIAA rulebook, and more specifically hockey rule 72.12. Under the text of the original law, any hockey player who was disqualified from a contest during the regular season would miss the ensuing two games. However, if this same infraction occurred in the postseason, that player would be forced to miss the remainder of the tournament.

After some pushback initially, the MIAA proceeded to pass a suspension of the rule for this year, with only one member of its committee abstaining.

Some showed concerns over the possible admittance of TECCA Connections Academy, a Walpole-based school that offers education in a virtual capacity. Because of its open enrollment, the fear is that the school could become a breeding ground for athletes to form star-studded teams.

Officials decided to pass a motion to table talks of adding TECCA as a member until the board convenes again Oct. 26.

“We’re a cross-section of superintendents, school committee members, athletic directors and principals, and I just really admire that they’re detailed and thorough with the decisions they make,” said MIAA executive director Bob Baldwin. “The (competitive equity tool) presentation by the three individuals, that’s been like two and a half years in the making. It’s well-thought out … but we’re not done yet. But we’re trying to do things, I think I heard the word ‘objectively.’ We know it’s not perfect, but whenever you have an open meeting that has that much transparency and discourse, I see it as a positive.”