Medieval alchemists would be proud.
Their efforts to change ordinary metals into gold never hit the jackpot, but the Naugatuck Valley League is making it happen this year – or something like it.
The league grew used to two seven-member divisions called Copper and Brass, established in 2006 “with the advent of football championships,” recalls league president Jon Carroll.
Oxford’s approach for membership in the league in 2012, effective this year, changed the balance.
“We respected their membership in the (SouthWest Conference),” said Carroll. “It allowed us a year to rewrite our by-laws and think about our divisions.
“We played around with unbalanced divisions and couldn’t make the math work,” said the 6-year veteran Sacred Heart Athletic Director and principal, working with his counterparts across the league in his first year as league president.
Coming up with a new concept was no easy task.
The NVL ranges from Class S Derby to Class LL Naugatuck in size; from Ansonia’s traditional superiority in football to Seymour’s in softball, in strengths; from Waterbury’s city schools to Woodland’s rural regional stretches in culture.
“One of the reasons the NVL is successful is because of our diversity, all along Route 8,” said Carroll.
Three five-team divisions for the league was the mathematical answer.
“From that point, we went to different permutations, keeping the five Waterbury schools together as a base,” Carroll said.
Finally it came down to mixing elements in the pot – a little bit geography, a little bit rivalries, a little bit size.
In sports in which all 15 teams participate (football, boys soccer, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball), the Waterbury schools – Crosby, Holy Cross, Kennedy, Sacred Heart and Wilby – stay together as the Brass Division. (After all, Waterbury is the Brass City.)
Then it gets a little looser. The new Iron Division keeps a few traditional rivalries intact while linking the bigger non-Waterbury schools: Naugatuck, Torrington, Watertown, Wolcott and Woodland.
The Copper Division has Ansonia, Derby, Oxford, Seymour and St. Paul, the smaller schools.
In full-division sports with traditional home-and-away schedules, teams play each other twice and everyone else once.
“With different schools not participating in some sports, we had to get creative,” said Carroll.
The divisions stay solid for girls volleyball, girls soccer, cross country and track and field, despite a few missing members or changes in schedule formats.
Then the metals start to melt.
Brass and Iron divisions hold up through boys and girls tennis, boys and girls swimming and golf, but Copper disappears while some division members morph into another metal in the search for numerical parity.
Copper Ansonia turns to Iron in girls tennis.
Oxford becomes Brass, Seymour is Iron, in girls and boys swimming.
St. Paul becomes Brass for girls swimming, Iron for golf.
“All the ADs and principals were involved in the nuts and bolts of the process,” said Carroll. “A smaller committee went into the minutia.
“One of the strengths of our league is we all work well together. There was no overwhelming single issue drawn as a line in the sand.
“There are adjustments for the schools, but, basically you’re allowing teams to play longer for something meaningful (division championships).”
League tournaments for most team sports will include the division champions and the five next best records.
“It’s fun to see this thing go live,” Carroll said. “So far, the feedback is more positive than negative.”
“Gold” has more than one definition.