Monday, April 13, 2015

MIAA considering an 18-team super-conference

FRANKLIN — Plans are in motion to potentially combine the Greater Boston League, Northeastern Conference, Masconomet, and conceivably Chelsea into an 18-team league over the next few years.

Charlie Lyons, superintendent of Shawsheen Valley District, unveiled details of the possible super-conference at the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s board of directors meeting Wednesday.

Lyons said the GBL schools — Everett, Malden, Medford, and Somerville — have “presented a yearning” to join a larger league. The GBL used to be a premier league in Massachusetts, featuring schools such as Quincy, Brockton, and Arlington.

“I don’t know if it will have a domino effect,” said Lyons, one of the board members. “I’m just trying to help the poor kids from Medford, Malden, Somerville, and Everett.”

Recently, the GBL has dwindled in size from 10, to five, to four teams. Lyons spearheaded a meeting between GBL superintendents and Northeastern superintendents that took place in Cape Cod in November.

Since that time, Lyons said, he has met with Everett school officials who are interested in the conglomeration. But Lyons made it clear to Crimson Tide football coach John DiBiaso that Everett, a perennial powerhouse in that sport, would maintain an independent schedule. Only teams that want to play Everett would be able to do so with the new alignment.

For Masconomet, the potential switch comes at a time when the school is growing in size and athletic prowess. Masconomet may apply to the Northeastern Conference because the school has more than 2,000 students — a high number for a Cape Ann school.

Lyons said Chelsea athletic director Frank DePatto has made it clear that the Red Devils could not compete with certain schools in specific sports.

Despite the potential complications, Lyons believes an 18-team league would cut down on transportation costs, help students get home earlier, and allow teams to play competition largely at their own level.

“I feel confidently that progress will be made, but it’s really up to the principals, superintendents and ADs of the Northeastern Conference,” Lyons said.

Marilyn Slattery, house principal at Malden High, is hopeful that the switch will happen in the near future. The logistics need ironing out and more parties need to get on board, but she believes progress has been made.

“I think it’s closer to happening than an idea,” Slattery said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Slattery echoed Lyons’s belief that the GBL used to be one of the most vibrant leagues in Massachusetts. Now, she says, “It’s terrible to see the dilution of a league that’s been going on.”

For Malden, a community with many immigrants, Slattery feels that belonging to a league with nearby teams would give her students a sense of community. Many of her kids traveled to Oliver Ames this year without even knowing where Easton is.

MIAA executive director Bill Gaine agrees with Slattery that the new league would give students a sense of belonging.

“There’s no affinity if they’re going from Malden to Marshfield,” he said.

The next step is to spark more dialogue and get leaders at schools involved and in agreement.

“People have been open, and people are considering it seriously,” said Lyons. “I’m really pleased about that.”

.   .   .

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