The football committee of the Maine Principals’ Association on Friday opted not to pursue a proposal to expand the state’s high school football structure from three to four classes beginning with the 2007 season.
That means such an expansion won’t take place for at least two more years, because reclassification in all MPA-sanctioned sports is done in a two-year cycle, said Larry Labrie, MPA assistant executive director.
The football committee, which consists of school administrators and athletic directors as well as representatives of the coaching and officiating fraternities, came to a “general consensus” not to expand to four classes for the first time since the 1986 season during a meeting at MPA headquarters in Augusta, Labrie said.
Had the committee supported the proposal, nothing would have become official until the MPA’s general membership considered the matter at its spring 2007 meeting.
The football committee met at MPA headquarters to review feedback received since the four-class proposal was first sent out to the state’s high school athletic directors a month ago.
“We received a lot of input,” said Labrie, “from principals, coaches, athletic directors and others. The committee felt the discussion was very positive, and the majority of the feedback was to stay with the status quo for a variety of reasons.”
Those reasons, said Labrie, included the sense that coaches and players had adjusted well to a revised preseason regimen used this year and wanted more time to continue to refine that effort before making more significant changes.
This year, for the first time, the first week of preseason practices was conducted under guidelines that regulated the amount of contact in an effort to promote enhanced conditioning. As the next step in that process, the MPA’s football and sports medicine committees have recommended following a national trend and extending preseason for a week to allow players and teams to more gradually acclimatize themselves to the heat of the summer and the physical demands of the sport.
Under the four-class proposal, all classes would have played eight games in eight weeks, followed by four-team regional playoffs leading to state championship games. Such a schedule would have provided time for an additional week of preseason without extending the current fall sports season by a week, either starting earlier in August or concluding in late November.
Currently Western B and Eastern and Western C schools each play a nine-game regular-season schedule. Eastern A plays eight games in nine weeks, while Western A and Eastern B schools play an eight-game, eight-week schedule. Regional playoffs in Western A and Eastern B involve eight teams, while the other four divisions hold four-team playoffs.
Another reason the four-class plan was turned down at this time was the sentiment expressed by some who provided feedback that there aren’t yet enough varsity high school programs to justify an additional class, Labrie said. Currently there are 67 teams statewide, with several other programs such as Nokomis of Newport, Yarmouth, Monmouth and Mount View of Thorndike in various stages of development.
In other business Friday, the committee did establish new enrollment cutoff numbers for the three existing classes that will be used for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, but Labrie said the MPA wanted to forward those cutoff numbers to the participating schools before making them public.