A Winning Proposition – Expanded NEC will benefit Winthrop in many ways

Saturday, September 19, 2009
By Cary Shuman

Your father’s Northeastern Conference is not your Northeastern Conference today, which is our way of saying that the tidy, 10-team conference that we knew for so many years is a relic of the past.

When Revere and Peabody joined the conference, the NEC no longer consisted of playing the other nine schools (all with larger enrollments than Winthrop, we might add) with one 10-team division. That’s why it was so special to Winthrop High football fans when coach Tony Fucillo and all-time greats like Matt Murray, James Fucillo, and Phil Hamilton led the Vikings to an undefeated season and a Super Bowl title in what was one of the greatest seasons in school history, which also is the final season in which the NEC was a 10-team league.

We bring this matter up because next month, the principals of the 12 NEC schools, including our own Gail Conlon, will vote to decide whether to admit the current Greater Boston League schools (Everett, Medford, Somerville, Malden, and Cambridge) and Cape Ann League school, Masconomet Regional, to the conference. We understand the proposal needs eight votes to pass, and it’s going to be a close vote.

We believe that the NEC schools should give strong consideration to allowing the GBL schools to join their league. It’s a compliment to the NEC and all the athletic directors that the GBL, once a formidable league that stretched all the way to New Bedford, has asked the NEC for admission.

The league would split into three divisions for football, so Winthrop would retain its rivalries with Swampscott, Marblehead, Danvers, Saugus, and Beverly, and its Thanksgiving game with Revere would also continue. In other sports, the athletic directors would likely align the schools by power, creating a competitive schedule for all teams.

From an altruistic point of view, we suggest that it would be nice to help out our friends in the Greater Boston League and grant them admission to the NEC, thus creating a stronger and more competitive 18-team conference, which would be the most dynamic conference in the state.

However, looking at it from a selfish perspective, there are some good reasons for Winthrop to let the GBL schools come in. Geographically, those schools are a shorter distance from Winthrop than many of the present NEC schools, which would make traveling for away games less of a hassle and less expensive.

Further, other than perhaps in football (and we are thinking only of Everett, really), Winthrop will be very competitive with all of the GBL schools, especially on the girls’ side of the schedule. Moreover, the simple fact is that Winthrop has been playing these GBL schools in many sports already, so we are already de facto in league with them.

Finally, having a large conference of potential opponents simplifies schedule making and would assure Winthrop of filling out its schedule in all sports every season.

We think the proposal is a win-win-win situation (for Win-throp) and we hope that the NEC principals give this idea serious consideration.

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