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MIAA redistricting to combine Pioneer Valley, Berkshire County on July 1; pair could merge for 2021-22

Sports Editor
Published: 5/20/2020 4:14:35 PM

The high school sports landscape is changing rapidly, and one such change is on the horizon.

Beginning with the 2021 fiscal year, which starts on July 1, schools in the Pioneer Valley and Berkshire County will officially combine to form District 1.

The move is part of the statewide redistricting plan that passed at the MIAA’s general assembly in 2019.

The Pioneer Valley had been considered District F and Berkshire County District G. The two were among eight current districts across the state. Under the new plan, there are nine districts.

The Massachusetts Secondary Schools Athletic Directors Association (MSSADA) led the way with redistricting. Duxbury Athletic Director Thomas Holdgate drafted the proposal that MASSADA approved in December 2018.

The MIAA Board of Directors voted 9-7-2 in March 2019 to send the proposal to general assembly the following month, where it passed 150-91.

Minnechaug Athletic Director Mike Roy served as president of MSSADA from June 2018 to June 2019.

“It had been out there for three or four years before we actually took it on as MSSADA and formally put it forward. I thought it was good,” Roy said. “With the way we structured it, we’re still the PVIAC, we’re still the Berkshires. That will never change.”

There was an imbalance with the old district system across the state. For example, 10 Berkshire County schools form District G, while 52 Pioneer Valley schools form District F.

Now, there will be nine districts of roughly equal size. District 1 is the largest with 62 schools, due in part because the PVIAC and Berkshire County wanted to stay together. The remaining districts are as follows: 2 (40), 3 (36), 4 (37), 5 (49), 6 (52), 7 (37), 8 (38) and 9 (41).

“This was a way to preserve what we were doing for years and years out here,” Roy said.

Districts have spent the last year deciding who would represent the individual committees that work within the MIAA.

According to Roy, Ludlow Athletic Director Timothy Brillo and Mount Greylock AD Lindsey von Holtz were instrumental in building the committees, which feature one representative from Berkshire County and one representative from the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Association (PVIAC) in most cases.

Losing two votes on the committee level drew some negative feedback, but that has subsided.

“It really hasn’t gotten a lot of pushback since it has gone through,” Roy said. “I think what it’s done, especially for our two districts, we’re talking more now than we ever have. In my opinion, it’s great. It’s awesome to have them now as our colleagues. They were before, but now we both have vested interests in both.”

Redistricting comes at a good time with the new alignment cycle as well as the shift to the statewide tournament format beginning in 2021-2022.

Now that District 1 encompasses the PVIAC and Berkshire County, both sections could come together in the future.

The Berkshire County League has asked to join the PVIAC in the past, but the PVIAC turned them away. The request to join has returned though.

“Based on the circumstances both at the MIAA level and the local level, there is strong consideration among the athletic directors, principals and administrators of the schools in the Berkshires to pursue an opportunity to be part of one western Mass. league,” Berkshire County League chairman and Pittsfield Athletic Director Jim Abel said.

Roy said Berkshire County has had consistent representation at the PVIAC meetings. While nothing has been planned or voted on, the opportunities are there for both sections.

“You might see a combination of PVIAC and Berkshires in all sports, and leagues will change and leagues will be different and maybe more competitive,” Roy said. “Yes, we’re going to have to travel to the Berkshires. They are going to have to come to us. It is what it is. There’re a lot of options and creativity we can get into and make it work.”

The PVIAC welcomed Berkshire County in football and ice hockey two years ago. The PVIAC leagues will realign for the 2021-2022 school year, so it’s possible Berkshire County could join with more sports by that time.

“Giving the timing, if we were going to make a move and consider it, and the PVIAC is going to consider it, now is as good a time as ever to investigate and to weigh out the pros and cons, and make some decisions in the best interest of western Mass. athletics,” Abel said.

NOTE: The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School is listed as a member of District 1 because it is a member of the PVIAC. The school is not listed among any of the 2021-2022 statewide alignments because it does not have any varsity sports at the MIAA level.

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.



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