East Haven will be without junior goaltender Devan Avena for the first half of regular season.
Not because he’s injured. Not for any wrongdoing.
But simply because his father took a pay cut at work.
Avena attended Notre Dame-West Haven last year. He was an honor roll student.
“I enjoyed it there,” Avena said. “I was doing well.”
His father was a home mortgage consultant at the time. But with the industry on the decline, he was forced to make a career change and accepted a bank branch manager position for a 33-percent pay decrease
The family could no longer afford to pay the thousands in tuition for Notre Dame, so Avena transferred back to East Haven High this year. He attended the school as a freshman.
Since he transferred, the CIAC rule is that Avena is ineligible to play for the first half of the season. But Avena’s father filed for a hardship appeal so his son could play immediately.
According to the CIAC by-laws, in order to be granted hardship eligibility, evidence has to be shown that it was “necessary for the student to transfer because of unforeseen, unavoidable, or unusual circumstances.” Furthermore, it lists “bankruptcy and/or loss of principal income of legal guardian(s)” as an example.
So Avena’s father went to CIAC headquarter early last month for a hearing on the case. In front of the CIAC eligibility committee, a group of 11, Avena’s father provided information like 401K statements, tax returns and delinquency notices.
However, the appeal was denied.
“I supplied the committee with what they needed, plus more,” said Avena’s father, Chris. “I don’t know what the message is they’re trying to send, what they’re trying to protect or what they’re afraid of, but this just isn’t fair.”
Avena’s father was told the decision was based on past practice and prior decisions, and that in the past the committee denied appeals that showed even greater hardship.
The CIAC would not comment, stating that its policy is not to discuss student eligibility or financial hardship appeals. The CIAC also could not provide the number of financial appeals it receives, nor the amount that have been approved.
East Haven athletic director Ricky Naracci was also in attendance for the hearing.
“If it’s a financial hardship and you can’t afford the school, than he probably shouldn’t have to sit,” Naracci said. “The rule is the rule and you have to abide by it and go from there. There’s a lot of different opinions on transferring. I wouldn’t want to be the one to determine who sits and who doesn’t.”
Avena has been able to participate in all games and scrimmages, but won’t be eligible to play in a game until the Easties Jan. 18 showdown with Guilford.
“I’m being punished and it’s not right,” Avena said.
As for his father, he wants the story to shed light on the issue and hopes the CIAC changes what he feels is an unreasonable rule.
This decision,” he says, “has made a tough time in our family tougher.”