MIAA Cancels Winter Postseason Tournaments
FRANKLIN, Mass. -- When the Taconic boys basketball team last March celebrated its third straight Western Massachusetts championship, it was the final moment of an exciting week at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst.
What no one knew at the time was that it might have marked the end of one of the region’s best-loved athletic traditions.
On Thursday, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to accept the recommendation of its Tournament Management Committee and not hold any postseason tournaments in the upcoming winter season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That, coupled with last winter’s decision by the full MIAA membership to do away with sectional tournaments for most sports, including basketball, starting in the 2021-22 school year, means that last winter’s Western Mass tournaments may be the last Western Mass winter tournaments and the end of trips to the Cage to see double-headers, triple-headers and championship Saturday.
The board members did not reference last winter’s decision on a move to a statewide tournament or discuss any change in timeline for its implementation during their discussion of the cancellation.
The decision to not hold postseason play this year, approved by a vote of 20-0 by the board of directors, dovetails with another recognition from the association’s COVID-19 Task Force: to limit travel for interscholastic competitions as much as possible.
“That falls in line with what we did for the fall, encouraging people to stay within leagues, limit travel and the number of opponents,” said the Task Force’s Thomas Holdgate, the athletic director at Duxbury High School.
MIAA Vice President Lindsey von Holtz, the athletic director at Mount Greylock, asked her colleagues on the board whether any of their leagues had discussed banning travel across state lines for competitions, a common practice for many of the Berkshire County League schools.
Holdgate said the COVID-19 Task Force did not specifically address that topic but there may be state restrictions on travel outside of Massachusetts that come into play.
“I totally understand what you’re talking about in the Berkshires,” Holdgate said. “We did not discuss that [in the task force]. Obviously there’s a unique geographic area in the Berkshires and people around Rhode Island and Connecticut or up on the New Hampshire line.”
The COVID-19 Task Force Thursday morning also recommended that the board keep the Nov. 30 start date for the winter season that it approved this summer but also recognize that date may need to be pushed back if the state guidelines for safe play do not arrive by Nov. 9.
The MIAA is waiting for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to release those guidelines, similar to the ones that formed the basis for the sport-specific modifications MIAA put in place for the sports it sponsored in its “Fall 1” season.
Holdgate explained that his task force felt that Nov. 9 was the latest the EOEAA recommendations could come out and still allow for the MIAA to process them in time for a Nov. 30 start date.
MIAA President Granatino, the superintendent of the Marshfield Public Schools, pointed out that the guidelines from Boston wold have to go to the association’s sports committees to make recommendations to the COVID-19 Task Force, and the latter would have to submit its recommendations to the full board of directors for approval.
“We’d be brushing up against the Thanksgiving holiday,” Granatino said. “It would almost chronologically impossible to have the recommendations back by the 30th if we don’t get [the EOEAA guidance] by the ninth.”
Holdgate noted that without the need for leagues to complete their play in time for a post-season tournament, there would be more “wiggle room” for the winter sports seasons to be completed even if the Nov. 30 start date has to be pushed back. Arlington Catholic A.D. Dan Shine pointed out that the basketball and hockey committees already have been meeting to talk about modifications in anticipation of the EOEAA guidance, so the turnaround time may be quicker than it was for fall sports when they got their direction from the state.
On the other hand, Brookline A.D. Peter Rittenberg said any timeline for starting the winter season has to factor in the approval of school committees, which in many districts maintain the authority to greenlight sport seasons.
The MIAA Board agreed to hold an emergency meeting within three business days of the COVID-19 Task Force’s recommendations in order to put the state association rules in place as soon as possible.
Coming out of Thursday’s meeting, the plan remains to hold the winter season from Monday, Nov. 30, to Sunday, Feb. 21, the last day of most schools’ February break. The “Fall 2” season, when the MIAA may sponsor high school football and leagues, like the Berkshire County League, that did not sponsor competition in sports like soccer and volleyball may offer those opportunities, is slated for Feb. 22 to April 25. The spring season is scheduled from April 26 to July 3.