Timeline for approval of 2021 high school state tournament alignments delayed

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking up much of the focus of high school administrators, the MIAA’s Tournament Management Committee agreed Thursday to push pause on a couple of items related to the statewide tournament scheduled to start in Fall 2021.

During a virtual meeting, the TMC voted unanimously to delay by one month some key pieces of the current timeline for approval of proposed alignments.

The TMC was due to publicize by Sept. 1 the approved alignment proposals for fall and winter sports. On the recommendation of committee chair Jim O’Leary of St. John’s Prep, those will not be publicized until Oct. 1. O’Leary said that, given the focus on the pandemic and getting plans up and running for schools to return in September, some sport subcommittees have not been able to finish their work.


With that delay, the TMC also agreed to push back by one month the process for schools to appeal their alignment placements.

“We have plenty of time,” O’Leary said.

Another key piece of the statewide tournament, approved in February by a vote of the full MIAA membership, is the transition to a power ranking system for seedings. The TMC originally settled on MaxPreps, a California-based company that publishes rankings for multiple sports both state-by-state and nationally, with the plan of using the 2020-21 school year as a pilot for the system.

At its last meeting in July, the TMC voted to push back the MaxPreps pilot until at least this coming winter season. However, O’Leary said he has heard concerns from across the state regarding certain components of the rankings — the proprietary formula, use of point differential in the calculations, an issue with the handling of tied games. The TMC agreed to reconvene a subcommittee to further explore MaxPreps or other options.

The meeting opened with an update from MIAA associate director Sherry Bryant on last week’s Board of Directors vote on a four-season plan for high school athletics for 2020-21, based on input from the COVID-19 Task Force and guidelines from both the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.


The Board of Directors also voted last week to not conduct postseason tournaments for the Fall 1 season, leaving the TMC with no need to take any action Thursday. However, the TMC did begin conversations regarding the possibility of holding tournaments for the other three seasons — Winter, Fall 2, and Spring.

“There certainly is some opportunity for postseason play [in the other seasons], if you look at the structure,” Bryant said, adding that any chance for tournament play still would be based on updated guidance from DESE and the EEA in the coming months.

St. Mary’s athletic director Jeff Newhall, voicing support for the possibility of hosting postseason tournaments, shared concern about the time needed to secure ice for boys’ and girls’ hockey, noting that it typically is a process done “months in advance.”

Hull athletic director Scott Paine, who also serves as Division 1A and South boys’ hockey tournament director, said he already has reached out to several of the ice facilities the MIAA uses and that they are understanding of the situation.

“From a tournament standpoint, I think we could make something happen. The rink facilities are being very flexible,” Paine said.


The TMC rounded out its transition to the new committee for the fiscal year by introducing a pair of new members — Lynn English vice principal Gary Molea (District 5), and Dedham principal James Forrest (District 7).

Jim Clark can be reached at jim.clark@globe.com.