MILFORD >> During Friday's 39th Annual MIAA Conference and Business meeting, the decision to continue the state football tournament format as currently constructed was passionately debated.
Panelists for and against changing the current structure stated their cases, and after the final votes were tallied, a yes vote passed by a 161 to 105 margin kept the current tournament format the same.
If the tournament format was voted against, the regular season would've ended on Thanksgiving Day and a new format would be administered by the football committee.
"I'm happy the membership voted to go with the work we've done as a football committee," Hoosac Valley athletic director and football committee member Michael Henault said. "I think it's really important to give the football players around the state a chance to compete at the tournament level.
"We've had a lot of success in Berkshire County. Our teams have made it pretty far in the tournament, and it really gives them a chance to compete at a level that wouldn't be available for them without the tournament."
Henault echoed the statements of panelist members Jim Pignataro and Matt Triveri, as they spoke during the plenary session on the positives of the current system.
Pignataro highlighted the five goals of the tournament system: To establish a state champion in all divisions, to maintain league and Thanksgiving games, to increase postseason opportunities, to create divisions based on enrollment and competitive balance and to eliminate teams having to play three games in 10 days, as Thanksgiving games can be sandwiched between postseason games. He added that the current system increased the amount of qualified tournament teams from 25 percent to 55 percent.
That fact, however, was one of the main points against the current structure.
Sean Gallagher and Micah Hauben spoke in opposition of the tournament format. They said the larger number of tournament teams dilutes the quality of tournament play. Teams with losing record can make the tournament and are paired against higher seeds that overpower the lower seeds.
In addition to decreased attendance during the final three weeks of the season for non-tournament teams, Hauben said the current format de-emphasizes Thanksgiving Day games, causing a lack of revenue for the schools and a lack of interest among the community. Henault said he hopes state championship games will create a new tradition and sense of community pride in areas where Thanksgiving games are strongly celebrated.
With the current format in place for the 2016 season and beyond, tweaks and amendments will still be possible. Pittsfield Public Schools Athletic Director Jim Abel said he understands the opposition to the current system, and even though it may not be perfect, it best serves the student athletes.
"The revenue associated with revenue-producing sports is always a consideration. But ultimately, the biggest priority is the student athletes. Giving them not only the best experience, but the most opportunity," he said.
"For those teams that may be struggling or in a rebuilding stage, it allows them to play competitive games toward the end of the season and it doesn't extend the season to the point where the students are burnt out."
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252