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NMH drops football

The Northfield Mount Hermon School football alumni got shocking news Thursday when the school announced it was dropping the football program beginning in the fall of 2014.

The school sent a letter out to former NMH football players explaining the decision, which, according to the letter, came after months of analysis and discussion among members of the NMH Board of Trustees, Athletic Director Tom Pratt, football coaches and Head of School Peter Fayroian. Pratt said on Thursday evening that the decision was not an easy one but the school wanted to do what it felt was best for its students.

“Of course this was not an easy decision,” he began. “We’ve got a long history of football at NMH. It wasn’t without a lot of careful thought and consideration and appreciation for all the alumni that have played football here.”

According to the letter sent out to alumni, the athletic department has seen an increase in athletes, specifically boys, specializing in one sport, and football has taken a hit. The letter lists basketball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse and wrestling as the sports more popular than football at the school.

“We don’t have as many crossover football kids as we used to have,” he explained. “By that I mean kids who play both hockey and football, or football and basketball. We found that the crossover athlete has banished from that landscape, and football has taken the brunt of it.”

Pratt said that the team has struggled in recent years and, according to the Hoggers’ record on Maxpreps.com, the numbers back it up. NMH is coming off an 0-8 campaign, and the team has not had a winning record in over a decade. In the past 10 years the Hoggers have gone 14-60-1 overall.

“We haven’t been comfortable with fielding a competitive team for a while now,” Pratt said. “We run a wide and deep athletic program and felt it would take a disproportionate amount of resources to field a football team.”

The letter to alumni concluded by offering its commitment to the more than 60 other athletic teams — spanning 20 sports — and Pratt said those programs have nothing to worry about.

“This was not a financial decision,” he explained. “Ultimately, what we are interested in is for our student-athletes to have a great experience, where they can run the gamut of having success in whatever season they are in, and we felt like our football players haven’t had that opportunity.”

NMH began its football program in 1933 and has more than 1,700 living football alumni. The sport will not be forgotten at the school, as plans for a permanent display on campus to honor the role the sport played at the institution are already in the works. Although no football alumni were reached for comment, Pratt said there has been a show of support.

“The news is just getting out and, as you would expect, we’ve had many, many notes of support, and others that want more clarity and want to know more about it,” he said. “Certainly at this point there is no overwhelming sense that people are upset, but certainly there are people who want more information and are concerned.”

The decision also eliminates that annual contest between the two Franklin County prep football teams — NMH and Deerfield Academy. Jim Smith, who coached at Deerfield from 1960 until 1995 and can remember the days when the NMH/Deerfield game was the final game of the season and a big deal in the county, said he, like many others, was shocked by the news.

“When I was at Deerfield Academy, it was a very fine rivalry,” he said. “The program was really healthy then and it was a shame to hear the news today.

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