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Changes coming from NHIAA

posted Sep 4, 2012, 9:13 PM by Milford Spartans   [ updated Sep 4, 2012, 9:18 PM ]

CONCORD – In a wide ranging discussion that included everything from football re-alignment to the possibility of bass fishing as a high school varsity sport, New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association executive director R. Patrick Corbin hosted the organization’s annual media day Thursday morning.

For the 2013 season the state’s six football divisions will shrink to just three, with an extra tier of playoff weekends and just three champions.

The big question is how long the plan, controversial already in some quarters, will last. Because it comes in the second-year of a two-year cycle, it might only be around for a single season.

The NHIAA’s football committee spent many hours coming up with a plan that would meet the approval of the NHIAA’s governing Representative Council, who mandated no more than five divisions.

The plan, based on both geography and enrollment, divides the state’s 57-football playing schools into three divisions, each containing four conferences.

But enrollment equity is still an issue. For
example, Division I South’s five teams include Pinkerton Academy of Derry, the largest school in the state with 3,168 students, playing in the same conference as Goffstown with 1,201.

Alvirne, with 1,400 students, was allowed to petition down to Division III for the 2012 season for competitive reasons. In 2013 the Broncos will compete in the same conference with Nashua High School North, Nashua High School South, Bishop Guertin and Keene.

Two NHIAA recent trial runs have been completely scrapped or modified for the current 2012-13 school year. The New Hampshire Index Plan, which awarded more points for a road victory than a home win regardless of opponent, is gone, although elements of the point system remain.

“With teams like BG, South and North all playing at the same place (Stellos Stadium), it really didn’t make sense,” Corbin said.

It remains in place for games played against opponents from a higher or lower division.

Division III’s experiment with “play-in” games, which allowed all teams in the division one last chance to qualify for the tournament, is also gone. But depending on the division, up to 20 teams can now qualify for postseason play from one division.

Tournament fields have been modified to coincide with the number of teams in each conference, with approximately 75 percent qualifying for tournament play in most sports.

For instance, the Division III baseball and boys soccer tournaments will include 20 teams, while the field for the Division II boys soccer tournament was reduced to 14.

Other ongoing topics sure to get close scrutiny by the NHIAA are summer 7-on-7 football events, that exclude all but “skilled” players and U.S. soccer’s 10-month season, with the recommendation that its players refrain from playing all high school sports.

Concussion education, including a mandatory course required for all coaches, continues to be a hot topic and Corbin would like to see more emphasis on heat acclimation issues, saying little or no progress has been made on that issue since the 1950s.

“Most of the deaths occur in football,” Corbin said. “Who do they make run the extra laps and deny water to, but the big, heavy, unconditioned kid who hasn’t been working out all summer?

“It’s the most preventable form of catastrophic injury,” Corbin said. “You take a 300-pound lineman and think you can whip him into shape in two weeks. It’s unrealistic and dangerous.”

The NHIAA emphasis to get more students involved, especially those who don’t normally participate in a sport, led to the addition of bowling as a varsity sport three years ago.

So far it’s been a success, and Corbin said it led the NHIAA to look at other activities, like bass fishing and equestrian competition.

Corbin said the idea of adding bass fishing, at least as a trial, came from watching his own grandchildren fish off the dock near his lakeside home in Windham. He said he was practically laughed out of a council meeting three years ago when he suggested it as a NHIAA sanctioned sport.

“Then Illinois went out that next year and started it,” Corbin said. “The first year they had over 800 participants and last year it was over 3,000. We have an exploratory committee and we’re trying to grapple with a way to offer it.”

Corbin said, through surveys, there are over 1,000 current students across the state that would join a bass fishing team if one was offered.

Rugby has also been brought up, and according to Corbin there are currently 17 high schools with equestrian clubs.

“It is a sport in many, many states,” Corbin said. “And for females, interestingly enough, it’s the sport where there is the most athletic scholarships (per capita) available.”

The NHIAA will continue to expand its offerings and hopes for increased participation in “unified sports,” further increasing opportunities for students outside the organizations mainstream.

Thursday, August 30, 2012 
Staff Writer
Division I
: Exeter, Winnacunnet, Dover, Spaulding, Timberlane.
WEST: Keene, Nashua North, Nashua South, Bishop Guertin, Alvirne.
NORTH: Concord, Manchester West, Manchester Memorial, Manchester Central, Bedford.
SOUTH: Pinkerton Academy, Salem, Londonderry, Goffstown, Merrimack.

Division II
: Kennett, Hanover, Plymouth, Laconia, Lebanon.
SOUTH: Milford, John Stark, Windham, Souhegan, Trinity.
WEST: Monadnock, Con-Val, Hollis Brookline, Sanborn, Kearsarge.
CENTRAL: Portsmouth, Pembroke, Merrimack Valley, Kingswood, St. Thomas.

Division III
: Campbell, Pelham, Bow, Somersworth.
LAKES: Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, Gilford, Winnisquam, Franklin, Newfound.
EAST: Raymond, Epping/Newmarket, Brady, Farmington/Nute.
WEST: Mascoma, Newport, Fall Mountain, Stevens.