The contentious, six-month FCIAC football scheduling crisis seems to have reached a cordial end.
In a compromise with the league’s coaches, who united behind a proposal at a Tuesday night emergency meeting, the FCIAC has agreed to restore rivalry games to Thanksgiving while also playing the FCIAC Championship for the 50th year.
“I think the mistake along the way, and it was nobody’s fault, is I think early on in the process there was some thought we could have it all: The 10-game schedule, the Turkey Bowls and the FCIAC championship,” Trifone said. “But we didn’t realize you just couldn’t do it all. Something had to give. And, at this point, this was the best we can do to try and satisfy everybody.”
According to a release posted to the FCIAC website, Kuczo said the 50th annual FCIAC Championship game will be played Saturday, Nov. 21. The league will play an eight-game league schedule leading up to the title game, and then play Thanksgiving week rivalries afterward.
The FCIAC Board of Directors and athletic directors voted unanimously to approve to revision.
“This is great for all communities involved, great for the league to play rivals on Thanksgiving and still get the championship game,” Norwalk’s Sean Ireland told The Hour of Norwalk. “Everybody is happy.”
This still means that the league’s members will have to play just nine CIAC-sanctioned games and cancel any non-conference commitments.
But at least Thanksgiving, the bone of contention for many of the league’s coaches, will be restored across the league.
“I think we got as much as we could possibly get,” New Canaan’s Lou Marinelli told Connecticut Post.
“As far as myself and (New Canaan’s) Lou Marinelli were concerned, we knew Thanksgiving was big, but I don’t think we realized just how important it was to our communities. And you saw some of that in Fairfield, as well,” Trifone said. “It was like we took all the youth sports and high school sports away in town.
“We received countless emails, phone calls and texts that were in disbelief. They were like, ‘They can’t do this. What can we do?’ So it clearly was a big deal.”
Unlike the April 7 sub-committee meeting, during which only 11 of the league coaches attended and voted 9-1 (with an abstention) for moving the FCIAC Championship to Thanksgiving, all 17 of the league coaches were present for the May 5 meeting — two via teleconference.
After voting through several proposals, including a 10-game schedule which eliminated the FCIAC championship, a majority agreed to preserve the title game and play it the week before, as it’s been done since 1994.
“That was basically our proposal back to (the FCIAC),” Trifone said. “It was an easy fix, we thought.”
The league will still be divided into two divisions of eight and nine teams and play seven division games with one crossover. The division winners will qualify for the league championship.
If the two winners are Thanksgiving rivals, the game will be played on Thanksgiving, as before.
Bridgeport Central, because it chooses to play 10 games in order to preserve rivalries with Bassick and Harding, will not be eligible to play in the title game.
The originally-scheduled Week 1 games have been lopped off to give the FCIAC a nine-game schedule. The league will begin the season the Week of Sept. 18, which is Week 2 for the rest of Connecticut.
“Of all the traditions we have — Thanksgiving, the league final, homecoming and opening week — we gave up opening day,” Trifone said. “It’s going to be hard looking at the papers and internet and reading about games while we’re still scrimmaging, but this was the best solution to come out of a tough situation.”
Some coaches praised Trifone for bringing it all together.
“The guy that deserves all the credit in the world is Rob Trifone because he was the real stabilizing, soothing influence on us (at the Tuesday meeting),” Westhill coach Frank Marcucio said of the compromise. “The issue (with the coaches) is we wanted what was best for our schools and the kids and Rob and (McMahon coach) A.J. Albano were the guys with the most reason out of everybody.
“I was really proud to sit there with those guys and, at least in the end, we restored Thanksgiving and the league fathers got to keep their championship game.”
Kuczo wrote he would be organizing a scheduling advisory committee of coaches and athletic directors to explore better solutions under the CIAC’s 10-game in future seasons. The committee, he said, will report its findings in September.
“The 2016 schedule will represent what is most important to FCIAC players, coaches, athletic directors and communities,” he wrote.
Here’s the full letter from Kuczo on FCIAC.net:
The FCIAC is making the following adjustment to the 2015 football schedule: We are changing the football championship from Thanksgiving Day to the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21.
In turn, the rivalry games scheduled on the weekend before Thanksgiving can be played on Thanksgiving Day or any other date between Friday, Nov. 20, and Thursday, Nov. 26, by mutual consent of participating teams.
I will be organizing a football scheduling advisory committee comprised of FCIAC football coaches and athletic directors.
This committee’s charge will be to examine all options for a football schedule available to our league, given the new CIAC mandate of a maximum of 10 regular season games. This committee will report its findings to our scheduling committee by September, 2015, and a new schedule will be developed.
The 2016 schedule will represent what is most important to FCIAC players, coaches, athletic directors and communities.
FCIAC Executive Secretary
Preliminary 2015 FCIAC Football Schedule