There were rumors this winter St. John’s was looking to depart the teetering and soon-to-be toppled Central Mass. Conference for the Eastern Mass.-based Catholic Conference.
That became reality in the spring, with an asterisk.
The Pioneers will join Boston College High, Catholic Memorial, Malden Catholic, St. John’s Prep and Xaverian Brothers in a Catholic Conference pod for the current school year and then become a full-fledged member beginning in 2021-22.
“It was something we’ve been working on along,” St. John’s athletic director Michael Mead said Friday. “Similar schools, similar missions in terms of not only academics, but athletics. Same populations, all-boys’ schools. Competition-wise it was just a great decision for the school.”
The process of leaving one conference involved submitting a request to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association and gaining the approval of both District E, which, prior to regional reorganization, represented Central Mass schools, and District H, which represented Catholic schools in Eastern Mass. The deal was sealed at the end of May.
St. John’s will field teams in cross-country, golf and soccer this fall — the only season currently approved to competition by the MIAA due to COVID-19 restrictions. As an example, in soccer they’ll play each of the five Catholic Conference teams twice for a total of 10 games and then participate in a season-ending tournament.
Assuming things return to normal in ’21-22, the Pioneers will have home-and-away series against each conference member to account for half of what is typically a 20-game schedule in sports like soccer, basketball, hockey, and baseball. Ideally, the other 10 games will be contested in Shrewsbury or a short drive away.
“We’re hoping to continue to build strong relationships with Shrewsbury, Wachusett, Algonquin, Nashoba, St. Paul, the Inter-High — all the Central Mass. schools,” Mead said.
Mead said St. John’s is looking to field teams at the varsity, junior varsity, freshman, and middle-school levels this fall. And by participating in the Catholic Conference pod, it will provide opportunities for non-varsity teams as many schools are reducing their JV and freshman schedules and not fielding middle-school teams due to the coronavirus.
—Contact Rich Garven at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RichGarvenTG.
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