I’m not making this up. This is Jan. 27, not April Fool’s Day.
The CIAC has spoken on the football playoffs for 2014. The Board of Control, a.k.a., the real power behind the curtain, has decreed that there will be just two rounds of football playoffs this fall.
The semifinal round is Saturday, Dec. 5 and the “championship” round is Saturday, Dec. 12. There will still be four classes — LL, L, M and S.
So far, so good. Sounds like the CIAC is reducing the number of qualifying teams to 16, right? That would be four in each class, because that’s the only way to get a state champion in each class.
Except the CIAC has decreed there will be no state football championships next year. Oh, they don’t say that, they call it a championship round. But that’s from the Flat Earth Society. Here’s why.
The CIAC has further decreed that there will be 32 teams in the postseason. What? Does that means there will still be two teams left in each class after the two rounds of playoffs?
There will be two Class LL “champions” and two L “champions” and two Class M “champions” and two Class S “champions.” Which is to say there will be no champions. Oh, they call them champions, and maybe they will call it the LL-1 champion, then the LL-2 champion — which will give us eight champions. Why not 16? 24? Heck give every team a trophy.
The classes that exist now make sense. LL — really big schools, L – big schools, M – middle-sized schools and S – small schools.
The CIAC said the football committee will set the format next month. Two ways to go and both are bad. The committee can split the classes by enrollment so we’ll have — pardon the giggles — LL-1, the really, really huge schools. LL-II, the not so big really huge schools. L-1, the really big big schools. L-II – the not so big big schools; M-1, the big middle-sized schools … well, you get it.
Or, and one reliable source said this is more likely, the CIAC will say that those teams ranked 1-4 in each class under the CIAC point system will make up LL-1, and those ranked 5-8, will be the LL-II, and so forth.
The problem with that is that folks will conclude the LL-1 is better than LL-II, and so on. That’s nonsense. Here’s a cold splash of reality. Not one of the No. 1 ranked teams in the four classes won a state championship in 2013. Not one. That’s, in part, because the point system is deeply flawed.
Two of them, Newtown in LL and Capital Prep in Class S, were ousted in the first round by the No. 8 seeds. Heck, in LL, the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams all LOST IN THE FIRST ROUND. So much for the reliability of the CIAC point system.
Want a reaction? Xavier coach Sean Marinan, who knows a little bit about winning state titles, said: “Don’t get me started on this. This makes no sense. Worse, I was told the CIAC simply handed this to the football guys and said this is it.”
But here is what’s really going on. The problem is the Thanksgiving Day games. If this state is going to have a sensible playoff system, those games have got to go.
“We have to decide as whether we want a sensible playoff system or whether we want to hold on to those Thanksgiving Day games,” said Middletown High coach Sal Morello. “That’s really the problem.”
Morello said he thought that the 8-team stuff coming up this fall was a stop-gap measure.
“This is a one-year thing,” he said. “What I hear, and I don’t like it, is they want to begin the playoffs before Thanksgiving, then have the Thanksgiving Day games, then resume the playoffs afterwards.”
I heard that one a few weeks ago and that is, in a word, goofy.
It’s goofy because it reduces all the Turkey Day games to exhibition games for playoff purposes. Those games won’t count. Gone would be the drama of Thanksgiving games in which teams qualified or were eliminated from the playoffs.
Under this system, I repeat, the Turkey Day games would, for playoff purposes, be scrimmages.
“Why can’t these schools play their Thanksgiving Day games the Saturday before the holiday?,” asked Morello. “Hall and Conard [West Hartford] do and they draw thousands. Then those games will count. If I had a Thanksgiving Day game and I was in the playoffs, I’d have to think hard about playing my top players in a game that means nothing.”
Morello also found the idea of having the classes split in 1-4 in one set of playoffs and 5-8 in he other a bad one. “I can see coaches manipulating the system, thinking they have a better chance to win a title in one group instead of the other,” he said. “That kind of split bothers me.”
Another reality is the 32 teams. For some reason, the football establishment seems married to that number. C’mon folks, look at the results of the games. There were many teams that had no chance of competing at the state level.
It would far more sensible to reduce the number that qualify to 16 — four in each class — and have two rounds.
“I like that idea,” said Morello. “But the real issue is what to do about Thanksgiving Day games. Starting the playoffs before those games makes no sense to me. I’m opposed to that.
“I also like the idea of four in each class. That makes sense. But what they’re doing this year, eight state champions? Let’s just say that’s a lot for our state.”
What is really needed is a reworking of the entire playoff season and how the CIAC runs football. Why not this?
1. Reduce the regular season to 9 games, thus guaranteeing every team gets a week off. That addresses some or the real concerns about injuries.
2. Have four teams in each class make the playoffs, not eight. The idea that there are 32 teams good enough in this small state playing for a state title is ridiculous.
3. Revamp the point system to credit teams for playing a tough schedule. Give teams bonus points for every win an opponent has, whether they win the game or not.
“Absolutely right,” said Morello. “Look at Xavier. They lost to three playoff teams, Prep, West Haven [in overtime], and North Haven and got no credit for playing tough teams at all.”
Fact is, Xavier would have been better off for playoff purposes if it played three Class S teams. The point system encourages that.
4. Kick all schools that are not limited by geography — magnet schools, parochial schools — up one class. No such schools in Class S.
5. Outlaw league championship games. Kids are playing too much football.
6. If there is a really strong feeling that 16 teams is too few, then add one class. We can live with LL, L, MM, M and S if we have to. Four is enough, and 16 teams in the playoffs is enough, but heck, 20 teams in five classes would be OK. “I like five classes,” said Morello. “But with just four teams in each class.”
But no matter what the CIAC does, let’s have real championship games, not phony ones. Some years ago the CIAC went from six classes to four and that was widely applauded as a good move. Now we’ll have eight? Two in each class? Please.
All the above is entertainment. Sadly, real life intervened in the area sports world recently. Just days before he was to be inducted into the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame, Ted Isaacson passed away. A great running back, we all hoped he would live to see this day. We knew he was gravely ill, but we hoped.
I remember cheering his exploits on the football field. He was as tough a running back as there was.
May he rest in peace.
In Bristol, Fran Mullins, a longtime leading member of that community and a man who was active in Legion Baseball activities passed away at 89.
I knew Fran well and looked forward to seeing Fran and his wife Carol every time I went to a Legion game in Bristol, which was often. This past summer, at the Northeast Regional Tournament here in Middletown, the Legion honored Fran with an on-field ceremony.
We all knew that time was short, but Fran had an indomitable spirit. When he was told he had a short time to live, he said he had no regrets. “I’ve lived a wonderful life and I have a wonderful family. I’m a lucky man,” he said.
As he lived his life, he dealt with death with style and grace.
He was a proud American who served in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. In Legion baseball, Fran was one of the movers and shakers behind Bristol’s wildly successful Legion baseball program.
He took great pride in serving a zillion years as Zone 1 chair and at every tournament would read the Code of Sportsmanship on the PA before games. A patriot of the first order, he insisted that kids on the field learn how to properly salute the flag during the Anthem and if a kid didn’t do it right, he heard from Fran.
There are people who are great. Fran Mullins was one of them. Condolences to his wife, his family and friends.
Middletown region sports news and notes
The New Haven Register’s All-State football team is the real deal … the team is drawn from all classes, so if you make this one, you’re good … MHS’ Dario Highsmith was a first team selection, Xavier’s Will Garrity was a second team selection at linebacker, MHS’ David Bednarz was a third team choice at offensive line and MHS’ Isaiah Thompkins was a third team selection at linebacker … Xavier’s Andrew Meoli was Honorable Mention at running back … MHS’ Anthony Bednarz was Honorable Mention at defensive line as was Peter Barry from Valley Regional … Nate Gonzalez from Xavier was Honorable Mention at defensive back … kicker Mike McNally of Cromwell was Honorable Mention at special teams and second team as a punter.
Middletown High’s swim team (5-2) had a great day Friday, beating both Wethersfield and Conard in a three-way meet in West Hartford … Matt Dagenais, who had a great meet in a loss to powerful Glastonbury earlier in the week, just missed breaking the school record in the 200 freestyle Friday … Michal Ciebielski won the 200 individual medley and the 100 freestyle … sophomore Jack Doherty won the 50 free and 100 butterfly, missing the school record by two-tenths of a second … Andrew Gilliland qualified for states in the 200 freestyle … and, of course, the terrific trio in diving of Dan Kinney, Monica Marcello and Adam Gauthier went 1-2-3.
The Middletown Hall of Fame induction dinner is Thursday night at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell and while it looks cold, it also looks to be storm free … MC Rich Coppola had to cancel as he was assigned to Super Bowl coverage this week, but the Hall got Bob Picozzi of ESPN to pinch-hit … I know Bob well … great guy … HOF got lucky.
MHS alum wrestler Richard Perry is ranked fourth in Division I at 197 pounds … he wrestles at Bloomsburg State University in Pennsylvania and last week notched his 100th win against Edinboro … looks like the freshman class at MHS has some athletes … the frosh football team was 9-1 and the boys basketball team is 9-2.
Local Internet radio station WCNX said that 1,515 tuned into the Mercy vs. Career game, 1,215 to the Xavier vs. North Haven game and 828 to the Vinal Tech vs. Whitney Tech game … “Those are good numbers,” said owner Judy Clark.
Xavier’s basketball team is 8-3 and ranked in the top 15 in the state … MHS boys hoop team is 6-5 and has won five of its last six … The Blue Dragons host Northwest Catholic Tuesday and Bristol Eastern Friday … they might be poised to make a move … the MHS girls team is 9-4, undefeated in the CCC South and has already qualified for the state tournament … coach Rob Smernoff’s team is pretty good, folks … Mercy just keeps rolling along … already people are talking about a South Windsor vs. Mercy showdown in the state tourney … both are 13-0 … I know, getting ahead of myself.
MHS’ Tim Harvey was fifth in the long jump at the CCC championship indoor track meet Saturday … Ben Schaff was sixth in the 1,000 meter run … the MHS 1,600 meter sprint relay team was sixth … MHS boys finished second to Bristol Central in the CCC-South … Valley’s boys (8-2) beat Fitch 112-105 in four overtimes Saturday … welcome to the NBA.
Rocky Hill/Middletown/RHAM hockey team beat Eastern Connecticut 5-1 for its second win Saturday … Xavier’s hockey team is 4-7 … Xavier’s swim team is 2-5 and lost Friday to Notre Dame 95-88 … in boys basketball Cromwell is 9-1 … East Hampton is 9-2 … Coginchaug is 6-4 … all are in Class S.
In girls hoop Cromwell is 12-1 … keep the Mohegan Sun weekend free, Panthers’ fans … H-K is 10-3, East Hampton is 9-4 and Coginchaug is 9-3 … all are in Class M … Vinal Tech’s girls are 2-6, the boys are 2-9.
Where have the crowds gone? At Xavier, where the noisy student section used to be a staple, there’s been nothing close to that this winter … the Art Kohs gym on game nights has become very quiet … maybe when No. 1 Fairfield Prep shows up on Feb. 11 so will the students.
Finally, a plea to local politicians … could we not have the dog and pony show over the budget this year? I know the board got an increase last year and I sided with the city … not this year … after years of stagnation, there needs to be more bucks thrown at the schools … the athletic department has asked to be returned to 2012 funding levels … uhhh, it’s 2014-2015 school year we’re talking about … none of this waiting until the last minute to see if there are freshman sports or activities … enough already, pony up … the schools have enough on their plate with the lunacy of Common Core … don’t add to their burden.