After decades of adhering to NCAA rules for high school sports like football, baseball and volleyball, Massachusetts is poised to join 48 other states in adopting the National Federation of State High School Associations rules for those sports.
However, the Boston Herald reports that not everybody is thrilled with the decision — and some are saying it could be a disaster.
A survey conducted by Brian Doherty, who leads the Association of New England Football Officials, found that 89.6 percent of the more than 500 survey respondents were against changing the rules. Perhaps more alarmingly, 54 percent of the sports officials surveyed said they would be unable to safely and competently officiate high school games under NFHS rules by the start of the high school football season.
The change was agreed on when the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association board of directors voted 10-1-1 to make the switch last August. Some say that the committee moved forward with the vote without allowing coaches and officials to voice their concerns, though committee members dispute that.
Proponents of the rule change believe that the positives outweigh the negatives.
“These are high school rules for high school kids,” Jim O’Leary, a member of the Tournament Management Committee and athletic director at St. John’s Prep told the Herald. “It made sense because it takes away the possibility of litigation and also allows us to have a voice [at the NFHS] now.”
But critics are rallying, hoping to urge the MIAA to reverse the decision when the board of directors next meets in early March.
“We want to get this issue on the agenda for the MIAA board of directors meeting in March to ask them to reconsider and vote again,” Doherty told the Herald. “We feel that they didn’t do any research, they simply listened to the [Tournament Management Committee] and just said, ‘Okay, that sounds fine.’ They clearly didn’t look at the ramifications, and I’m hoping that they will this time.”
Coaches and officials who spoke to the Herald say that the primary concern is having to understand and adopt too many rule changes in too little time, particularly for football.
“Football is unlike baseball and volleyball in that there are 238 different rules involved here,” Doherty said. “The change is very dramatic.”
“This is like asking someone who has spoken English all their lives to become fluent in another language in six months,” said Xaverian football coach Al Fornaro.
Nearly a quarter of the officials who responded to Doherty’s survey said that they would either likely not or definitely not officiate high school games this season if the rule changes go into effect.