Swing voters turn another fall decision

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Presidential election is weeks away, so we’ll be bombarded with talk of swing voters until the ballots are cast.

At Assabet Valley Regional Tech on Friday morning, the fate of the vote for a new football playoff proposal for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association too might have been decided by a number of souls who were undecided till the last minute. The motion set before a general assembly of all MIAA charter schools passed somewhat comfortably 161 ‘Yeas’ to 131 ‘Nays;’ some straw polls going in had the vote at a “too close to call.” It was just the second time in MIAA history that such a measure for a statewide vote had been called.

Some, like Bridgewater-Raynham football head coach and athletic director Dan Buron, still felt conflicted on the morning of the vote. In recent years, Buron and the remaining schools of the Old Colony League (Barnstable and Dartmouth) have seen their conference ravaged by departures. The statewide craze of swapping ships has mirrored a bit of what has occurred in NCAA football. Looking through that prism, both the MIAA’s current football playoff system and the Bowl Championship Series share a fatal flaw – both leave much to be desired, namely the fact neither recognize a true champion through a playoff system.

Upon entering the auditorium Buron resolved in his mind to vote against the measure. He still had reservations about how non-playoff contending teams would fill their schedule in the weeks leading up to the season’s end at Thanksgiving.

After seeing the plan’s detail of having non-playoff teams entered into a sectional pool of teams with similar records and the presentation of the particulars on Friday morning, Buron adjusted his stance.

“It’s time for a change,” Buron said. “I think the football committee did a good job of listening to the vote last time and changing up some things.”

In his time as Trojans’ head coach, the years more numerous than he’d care to see printed in a news report, Buron’s seen plenty. He’s also seen plenty of winning, but he’s also seen plenty of fine seasons dashed by a slip-up in one game. As currently constituted, playing in a three-team league essentially means you’d better win those two games, or your Black Friday activities revolve around sales at department stores, not football.

Yet, Buron would never be the type of coach to complain about that fact. Instead, he continues to take on all comers in Eastern Mass. The Trojans added Catholic Conference power and current third-ranked MIAA squad St. John’s Prep to their schedule this year. B-R lost a competitive, spirited game, 20-7.

Buron takes those lumps in order to have his teams’ peaking when those penultimate league games come. But now, with the approval of the playoff restructuring, teams like B-R will have all that much more incentive to take on a murderer’s row schedule. They’ll receive power ranking points for doing so – win, lose or draw. And, while teams will still aim to win a coveted league title, they can also play for an ultimate prize, even if there’s a blemish on their regular-season slate.

“I hope in two year’s time we really sit down and take a look at how it’s worked out and change it if it needs to be changed,” Buron said of the plan’s built-in two-year option on his way out the door.

“Then, if it’s fine, we’re fine. But I’m looking forward to it.”

That’s change we can all believe in.