Say goodbye to the FCIAC Championship football game.
The FCIAC’s board of directors this week voted in favor of playing a 10-game schedule in 2016, thereby eliminating its annual league championship game, the league announced Friday.
The decision comes after a yearlong battle between administrators and coaches within the league who ultimately voted to go to a nine-game schedule this season in order to preserve the annual championship game under new CIAC guidelines.
Those guidelines, implemented in 2015, mandate that teams cannot play more than 10 games in a season, including league championships. Previously, league finals were considered scrimmages under the CIAC.
The NVL eliminated its final after the 2013 season (though not entirely because of the new CIAC rules). The SWC eliminated its championship after 2014, citing the new rules.
Though the FCIAC kept its final, league members each had to contract to nine games in order to make room for the two finalists to play a 10th-game, league championship.
The extra game wasn’t needed, however, since Thanksgiving Day rivals Darien and New Canaan both won their respective divisions, making their annual Thanksgiving Day game the FCIAC championship. It was moved to Boyle Stadium and played in front of 8,000 fans.
Darien defeated New Canaan 28-21 in the 50th annual game.
But even before that happened, FCIAC coaches like Staples’ Marce Petroccio, Darien’s Rob Trifone and Ridgefield’s Joe Aceri spoke in favor of giving the 17 league members 10 games, while also criticizing the CIAC for its game restrictions.
Those coaches joined an outspoken chorus of coaches which included St. Joseph’s Joe Della Vecchia, Fairfield Warde’s Duncan Dellavolpe and Westhill’s Frank Marcucio, who spoke out against the nine-game schedules last Summer.
Coaches in favor of 10 games believed the nine-game schedule hampered their teams from getting higher seeds in the state playoffs or, in Ridgefield’s case, kept them out of the postseason altogether.
— Ridgefield Football (@RidgefieldFball) December 11, 2015
The FCIAC championship had been played on or the week before Thanksgiving for 50 years beginning in 1966. When it didn’t pit Thanksgiving rivals, it was played the week before.
Over the last 11 seasons, however, the FCIAC championship has either been a rematch of a regular season game or a game between Thanksgiving rivals eight times, including five-consecutive years.
The last time the FCIAC final was played as a stand-alone game was in 2013 between St. Joseph and New Canaan (who had met during the regular season).
Of the league’s current 17 members, seven have participated in the league championship over the last 10 seasons, and only nine have participated over the last 20 seasons.
Of those nine programs, four of them –Staples, Greenwich, New Canaan or Darien — have won the title in 19 of the last 20 years. The lone exception is Trumbull’s 2005 FCIAC title over Staples.
Those four teams have been paired together in 12 of the last 20 finals. The last FCIAC championship that didn’t involve Staples, Greenwich, New Canaan or Darien was in 1995 when McMahon defeated Wilton 19-7.
The league will continue to operate with two divisions of eight and nine games, apiece. But it will not crown a conference champion in 2016. The teams in the East Division (Darien, Danbury, McMahon, Warde, Wilton, Staples, Stamford and St. Joseph) will have an extra bye week to fill with a non-conference game.