After years of going without a conference affiliation, all but a handful of the athletic teams of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High school finally found a home this week when the Eastern Athletic Conference voted unanimously to accept the Vineyard into its ranks.
The principals and athletic directors of the Eastern Athletic Conference voted without dissent on Wednesday to accept the Vineyard as the newest member of the four-school athletic conference. The vote took place at the conference’s regular meeting held at Somerset High School.
Earlier this year, officials from the conference — which includes Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth, Coyle and Cassidy High School in Taunton, and Somerset High School — asked the regional high school to join its ranks.
With the vote on Wednesday, all the Vineyard teams become members of the same conference for the first time since the Cape and Islands league folded several years ago. The teams will join the conference at the start of the next school year with the exception of girls’ hockey and boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams; those teams are not represented in the conference.
Several Vineyard teams have been without a conference since the principals of the South Coast Conference voted in December 2006 not to allow the regional high school to remain in the league. Currently the high school is a member of the Mayflower League for football, track and cross-country.
High school athletic director Mike Joyce said the new conference is a good fit.
“You’re never going to find the perfect conference for all the teams, it’s just not possible. But overall . . . it’s a good balance,” he said.
He said membership in an athletic conference has many benefits. Student athletes in a conference can be awarded all-star status which provides a boost on college applications. Membership also allows teams to play the same schools every year.
“This is healthy for the athletes and for our school. We aren’t scrambling every year to find teams to play us . . . every year we see the same teams and build relationships and rivalries with [our conference] opponents,” Mr. Joyce said.
He said entrance into the new athletic conference will not affect the annual Island Cup football game between the Vineyard and Nantucket. And he said the Vineyard will continue to schedule games against several Mayflower League opponents every year.
Mr. Joyce said the Vineyard will pay some of the travel costs for conference opponents, although this is not expected to affect the budget significantly. Vineyard teams will play each conference rival twice a season; once at home and once on the road — except for football, which will play each conference opponent once each season.
Somerset High School principal Robert Pineault, who is also chairman of the Eastern Athletic Conference, told the Gazette yesterday the league plans to expand its ranks in the coming years to around seven schools. He said the conference is going through a transition period, and adding the Vineyard makes sense.
“It’s great for them and great for us. We have a lot of respect for their students and their faculty. They run a good ship over there — no pun intended,” he said, concluding:
“Sure, we have to travel a little on the boat, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think our kids will really enjoy their time on the Island . . . they have good athletes that understand the importance of good sportsmanship, and I look forward to our new partnership.”