I’ve seen enough.
It’s time to separate the schools without borders from public schools for the state basketball tournament. It’s an issue of simple fairness.
Readers might recall that I have written about schools without borders such as Catholic high schools, magnet schools and the like. I have consistently said that those schools have an obvious advantage in sports over public schools.
I have advocated moving them all to Class L or LL. The CIAC has been unable or unwilling to take action to see that all kids get to play on level playing fields.
When a system is unfair to kids it is indefensible.
For several years, Mike DiMauro, a Xavier grad who is the assistant sports editor of The Day of New London, has advocated separate tournaments. He has written that if public schools choose to play schools without borders in the regular season, that’s fine. But come tourney time, the playing field must be level. He has argued that the only way is separate tournaments.
DiMauro is right.
Some facts to consider.
The best Class L public high school boys basketball team in Connecticut the past two seasons was Middletown High. Yet the Blue Dragons have nothing to show for it.
Last year, MHS beat all the public schools it faced in the tourney en route to the Class L title game.
There it lost to East Catholic, a school without borders.
This season in the Central Connecticut Conference playoffs, a league that is arguably the best and deepest basketball conference in the state, the Blue Dragons dispatched Hall of West Hartford and beat Class M finalist Bloomfield.
They then lost to East Catholic.
In the state tournament, Middletown outclassed Maloney, beat a good New London team, beat a very talented and Top 10 team in Ledyard to get to the semifinals.
There it lost to Sacred Heart.
In each case, the CIAC allowed the playing field to be tilted against the Middletown kids. That’s unfair.
Please don’t hand me enrollment numbers. Sure the totals count — in a public school vs. public school game. No one is saying East Hampton should have to play Middletown.
But the numbers are irrelevant if you can get kids — and basketball players from whatever town — or state — you want. Xavier draws kids from nearly 70 towns and cities, Northwest Catholic draws kids from 20 towns and two states.
It is obviously unfair.
The case of Sacred Heart is particularly grating. The Hearts, despite being regarded among the top teams in the state for the past four years, were allowed by the CIAC to win two Class S titles and one Class M title. The kids from the state’s smallest towns, the schools for which Class S is designed, had no chance.
Unlike Weaver or Hillhouse — schools that petitioned to move up in class — Sacred Heart refused and won three titles that are among the most meaningless in state history. Twice its victim was Valley Regional, a Class M school that draws from the tiny towns of Chester, Deep River and Essex.
Last year, Valley was the legitimately best Class M team in the state. It was crushed by the juggernaut called Sacred Heart which refused to challenge its kids by playing in Class LL — the kind of teams on its regular season schedule — where it belonged.
Unfair. And the CIAC said nothing.
This year, the most egregious example of blatant unfairness is what happened to Westbrook’s team, clearly the best legitimate Class S team in the state. In the final game Saturday, the Westbrook kids played heroically against Trinity Catholic, which plays in the Class LL/L FCIAC. They lost 61-52.
TC doesn’t play Class M or S schools. Among its wins was a 69-55 decision over Class L semifinalist Wilton and a win over Danbury, a team that knocked Class LL Notre Dame-West Haven out of the tournament.
Come tourney team, the CIAC allowed Trinity to beat up on the little kids, ruining a once in a generation chance for the little town of Westbrook and its tiny high school.
Westbook coach Jeff Beeman nailed it: “It’s not right they’re playing in Class S,” he said.
He is exactly right.
Yet the CIAC does nothing. It has perpetuated this unfairness and, at the same time, talks endlessly about fairness, equality and sportsmanship.
Enough. Schools without borders have an overwhelming advantage. Heck, in the Class L tournament, there were 32 teams that qualified — 30 public schools and two Catholic schools. The two Catholic schools played for the state L title Sunday night.
This Catholic obviously is not attacking Catholic high schools or any school without borders as institutions. I am attacking the CIAC for allowing this inherent unfairness to continue and I am criticizing Sacred Heart and Trinity Catholic for refusing to challenge its kids and for beating up on the little guys.
I am not attacking Xavier, Mercy or any school for playing as tough a schedule as it can and for challenging its kids. Good for them. But the institutional competitive imbalance is real and cannot be ignored.
Need some more things to chew on?
Sacred Heart revisited: One of its star players, Isiah Gaiter — from what I hear a very nice kid, played his freshman year at Xavier, played his sophomore year at Platt of Meriden, then, in his junior year, replaced Sacred Heart State Player of the Year Mustafa Heron at Sacred Heart.
Meanwhile, a kid who plays for Middletown has to live in Middletown. A kid who plays for Westbrook has to live in Westbrook. A kid who plays for a school without borders can live anywhere.
Ultimate example? Trinity Catholic has two players who are from Haiti. As one guy said Saturday, “Bad enough Westbrook had to play a team with kids from many towns, it also has kids from different countries.”
Time to be fair to all kids. Time for separate tournaments for schools without borders and public schools. New York City does it, New Jersey does it, time for Connecticut to do it.
This and that…
…Hillhouse began the season ranked No. 1 in the New Haven Register/GameTimeCT poll, slid a tiny bit when it had its one bad game against Fairfield Prep, but then reclaimed the No. 1 spot as it disposed of the contenders one by one.
On Saturday, it demolished East Hartford 78-58 to win its 24th state title. No question the Academics are the state’s best team. This is written before Sunday’s Class M and Class L title games and my vote is in: Hillhouse is No. 1, no doubt, not close, best team.
…There was lots of grumbling Saturday about the officiating at Saturday’s championship games at the Mohegan Sun. The New London vs. Trumbull Class LL girls game — won by New London which played up in LL, thus challenging its kids — was particularly onerous as one official blew the whistles like he/she was being paid by the foul.
If so, he/she earned a trip to Aruba.
The Hillhouse vs. East Hartford game also had no flow as the officials assigned to the game turned it into a watch-me-blow the whistle event.
I’ve said it before, the CIAC policy of assigning officials who have not worked the games at the level of the competing teams makes little sense. Games like Hillhouse vs. Wilbur Cross, East Catholic vs. Weaver, Middletown vs. Windsor, Xavier vs. Hamden are just different than games involving smaller schools.
Also, why does the CIAC refuse to assign women to boys games? Heck, the NFL has a female official. I saw women officiating Wesleyan football. Equal treatment doesn’t mean assign women to only girls games.
And the playing of the song “Feel like a woman” over the non-stop, annoying PA system at Mohegan Sun at the girls games is blatant sexism. Stop it.
…Congratulations to the WMRP (Wethersfield, Middletown, Rocky Hill, Plainville) ice hockey team for advancing to the Division III semifinals … there are four kids from Middletown on the team, including standout goalkeeper Steve Vaughn … the team plays under the radar, but that doesn’t take away from its singular accomplishment.
…New London’s girls missed eight straight free throws in the final four minutes, scored only three points, and still won the Class LL title over Trumbull … the Whalers did it with tremendous team defense that stopped Trumbull cold … the final margin was six points … Trumbull is lucky it wasn’t 15.
…Best cheer of the day goes to the Westbrook kids … they chanted “You recruited, you recruited” at Trinity Catholic … you know that when the kids are chanting that, it’s an issue.
…Story is that the CIAC met with Yard Goats folks about using the boondoggle known as Dunkin’ Donuts Park in downtown Hartford for the CIAC baseball finals down the road … not a good idea. Professional venues don’t work. A crowd of 1,000 looks great at Palmer Field, but would be lost among the 6,000 seats at the Donut.
More than that, the beer signs and the parking fees make it unpalatable for high school kids. The CIAC tried it once by playing its football games at Rentschler Field. The biggest crowd I saw at The Rent was 4,500 for a Xavier title game. That means the game was also witnessed by 35,500 empty seats.
…Best cheerleaders at the tourney? New London, hands down.