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Jan. 12, 2020 — Is the MIAA doubling its footprint, or halving its competitive balance?

A couple of days ago, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, the commonwealth’s governing body for public school sports, released its proposal for statewide brackets for the sports it sanctions.

Gone will be the days of separate brackets for four regions, to be replaced by statewide brackets, meaning that a team from the Berkshires may have to travel to Cape Cod, and vice versa, every round, depending on how the seedings fall.

Those seedings would be determined by computer rankings by MaxPreps. The first four seeds in each division’s bracket would be seeded separately, meaning that a team with a weak regular-season schedule may not get one of the top four seeds, despite being undefeated.

But the headline-grabber for Massachusetts’ changes is the fact that, for both field hockey and girls’ lacrosse, the number of championships doubles from two to four.

Massachusetts is not the only region to have added championship levels in the last few years: the Virginia High School League, the Midwest Athletic Association, the California Interscholastic Federation’s San Diego Section, and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association have added postseason championships over the last five or so years.

Just from observation, the addition of these additional postseason tournaments has, for me, benefitted smaller schools. Elverson Twin Valley (Pa.), for example, won a state championship in 2015, and Poquoson (Va.) has made it to the state title game on more than one occasion since the changes to the VHSL tournament.

Now, I don’t have the exact enrollment numbers for the MIAA field hockey or lacrosse schools. But I have a feeling that the new championship will benefit programs in small towns all over the state such as Mashpee, Martha’s Vineyard, and Greenfield.

I also think it’s going to help teams in the western part of the state who have usually been in short brackets because there aren’t enough qualifying teams to fill out a 16-team sectional.

They’ll vote on the proposal next month; let’s see if enough administrators think it makes sense.

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