By Phil Stacey
---- — The 11 high school principals of the Northeastern Conference schools voted down a proposal yesterday from the conference’s athletic directors to add Masconomet, as well as four schools from the Greater Boston League, into the NEC.
Six NEC schools — Salem, Danvers, Swampscott, Lynn English, Winthrop and Gloucester — voted against admitting Masconomet, Medford, Malden, Everett and Somerville in, which would have created a 16-team conference. A successful vote would have meant that two-thirds of the principals voted yes (8 out of 11).
This is the third time that a vote where Masconomet and/or the Greater Boston League’s four remaining teams might join the NEC has been shot down.
“It’s disappointing that this is it; there’ll be no more votes on this,” said Beverly High AD James Coffey, who presented the proposal to the NEC principals at Lynn Classical High School. “I thought it would’ve been great for the league.”
A plan to admit Masco and the GBL (which at that time included Cambridge, a school that has since departed) was previously shot down within the last calendar year, before the NEC athletic directors had put a plan in place. Coffey said he had emailed all of the principals saying that the ADs would get together this fall and come up with a written proposal that they could vote on.
“We were coming from 11 different points of view at first,” said Coffey, “but we eventually got to a point where we all agreed, ‘If we’re going to do this, then this is the best possible alignment for everyone if they’re voted in.’”
Factors such as travel for some NEC schools to their GBL compatriots, making the playing field in certain sports more level and the natural concerns of conference schools having to face state football powerhouse Everett on a yearly basis were all discussed and ironed out, said Coffey.
“We addressed every issue we could,” he said.
Danvers High athletic director John Sullivan, whose school voted against expansion, said there was a tremendous amount of work that went into the proposal.
“We looked at every aspect from top to bottom, how it would be good for certain teams and difficult for others and how to fix those issues,” said Sullivan. “There were a lot of positives — and for some schools in our conference, there were important negatives that had to be taken into consideration. That’s why the vote went down the way it did.”
Now that this issue seems, for all intents and purposes, to be dead, the denied schools are left searching for homes.
Masconomet, having outgrown the Cape Ann League, has had multiple overtures from the Merrimack Valley Conference to join over the years. There’s a chance they could apply again to the NEC on their own, without the GBL teams. There’s also talk that Saugus, a long-time Northeastern Conference member who is now in its first season as a Cape Ann League school, would like to eventually rejoin the NEC.
Coffey admitted that there were some athletic directors and their principals who were “definitely not on the same page”, which may have influenced the voting.
“Our goal was to bring in five schools who would make our conference as a whole stronger and every game competitive in a good way,” said Coffey. “Putting teams together (in certain sports) that were more competitive, that’s what this should have been about.”