Why can't h.s. football be more weather friendly?
Imagine if Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference poohbahs - gasp - waited till this weekend to schedule the state high school football finals. Third weekend in December. We'd have predicted Armageddon, apocalypse, three feet of snow and Minsk-level temperatures.
It was 50 degrees here Saturday.
It'll be 60 today.
Still, even with the admission that the weather is like fertilizer - all over the place - the closer we keep playoff schedules to November, the greater the chance the conditions remain favorable.
This is the premise for today's discourse. Spies say changes are coming, maybe as early as next season, for the state high school playoffs. The football committee meets in January to discuss several proposals, most of which are aimed at moving the playoffs up so the season either doesn't extend into December or barely does so, certainly not like this season.
And so once again I beg:
Start the season Labor Day weekend.
I've written that line so many times I'm thinking about making it into a commemorative stamp. But for the love of Chrysler … why are we the only state in the union that waits until the third week of September to start high school football?
Do coaches, who generally begin practice the third week of August, honestly need a month of preparation?
Why do we forgo two warm weather weekends in September?
This would be the plan:
Start Labor Day weekend. It would allow teams to play nine games that would determine playoff seedings. Play the quarterfinals two weekends before Thanksgiving, the semifinals the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the finals the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Most years, that's on or about Dec. 1.
Any such discussion rarely flows until the official Whoa, Nellie from the protectors of Thanksgiving football.
Their feeling is that teams that make the finals wouldn't play their starters or try as hard on Thanksgiving, fearful of risking injury for the championship game.
Note to you people: really?
What, New London still wouldn't want to beat NFA in the oldest high school football rivalry in the country?
New Canaan wouldn't want to smack Darien?
Ledyard wouldn't try to bury Fitch?
Platt-Maloney, Conard-Hall, Bristol Central- Bristol Eastern wouldn't be bloodbaths?
Any football coach or player who sees a few thousand people in the stands on a traditional day and looks across the field at the school they've been trained to loathe would start hyperventilating.
Plus, this only affects the eight schools in the finals.
Why is this even an issue?
A Labor Day schedule allows the state to capitalize on warm weather, play nine games to determine the playoffs and keep the sanctity of Thanksgiving football, not to mention its large crowds and increased revenue for athletic departments.
The casualty in this would be the handful of leagues that play conference championship games. There wouldn't be a spot for those anymore. Likely a point of contention. But since our season runs too far into December now, imperils winter sports and often runs afoul of foul weather, can we try another way for a while?
Let's also revisit the winter sports issue. It's not fair to winter programs that football players are otherwise occupied for too long into preseason practice. Lest we forget, the CIAC's biggest moneymaker is basketball at Mohegan Sun. I realize only a handful of programs are affected. But if money talks - and there's no place it doesn't - shouldn't basketball have a say in this, too?
The football committee gets a lot right. They've expanded the playoffs, giving two-loss teams more hope. They moved the finals from cavernous Rentschler Field to Central Connecticut.
Perhaps the weather of 2013 prompts more change. Let's hope so. Labor Day is lovely that time of year.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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