ECC had chance to offer real change ... and settled for opt outs?

They had their meeting Tuesday, the athletic directors of the Eastern Connecticut Conference did. And this is what happened: nothing.

Here is the missive sent to the local media from Stonington athletic director Bryan Morrone, the spokesperson for his colleagues:

"At (Tuesday's) meeting, the future of the ECC was discussed at great length. For more than two hours, we discussed the many rumors and scenarios. To the credit of everyone at the table, the conversations were honest, healthy and respectful to the diversity the league offers and stands by.

"We discussed several ideas (two divisions vs. three divisions, regional vs. enrollment alignment, schools of choice, enrollment disparity, other leagues) on how to make this the best league possible for all schools. In the end, the consensus was that our current enrollment based three-divisional alignment works best.

"In cases of competitive disparity, we will continue to utilize our Opt-Out Policy to resolve such issues. Almost all agreed that the ECC is the best league for their school to be in. The ECC will continue to strive to assist schools and student-athletes to be successful through healthy competition."

So there you have it, folks. One, big happy family. No word whether they retired to the campfire after to toast marshmallows with the rest of the Waltons.

And don't you believe a word of it.

You can be certain the same nitpicky, backbiting group that entered the meeting left it.

Change didn't happen because there weren't enough people in the room with the guts to make it happen. Besides, it's far easier to complain. And that's what they do best. They whine to each other, the papers, their friends. They're right, everyone else is wrong. Except when it comes time to support their beliefs with some public resolve. True resolve, beyond mere words. Then they become the Von Trapp family.

And so on behalf of every one of us who cares about local sports and appreciates the kids and their efforts, let me speak for us. Next time a participant at Tuesday's meeting decides to unburden himself or herself about competitive imbalance, evil schools of choice or long bus rides keep it moving. As Billy Joel once sang: "Go on and cry in your coffee, but don't come bitchin' to me."

You had your chance. And you decided that "Opt-Outs," or the mechanism by which schools can avoid playing each other, is the most prudent option. Of course. That's what a league is all about, right? Opting out. A league exists to fill a schedule? Not among the Waltons. ECC schools fill out schedules through convenience, not compulsion.

Lest we remember: Opt-Outs began as safety measures for football only. The physical nature of football creates mismatches. Opt-Outs became a grudging solution. Now they're used here more than iPhones. In every sport. Safety? Nah. We can't beat them, so let's go find someone we can.

And to think Tuesday presented an opportunity to get the oppressed schools north of Norwich away from the heathens of the south who have the gall to offer Agri-Science programs or magnet school options. Affronts to society, all. And before you dismiss that as sarcasm: That's really how some of these people think. It's not fair for a little old Quiet Corner institution to play these new "Schools of Choice."

Maybe it's not, by the way. Yet instead of attempting to revive the old Quinebaug Valley Conference, they opted out. With Opt-Outs. Or should they be called Cop-Outs?

In the formative days of ECC expansion and realignment, a wise man cautioned the dramatis personae about the perils of selfishness, within a league of such disparate school sizes.

"If every school comes with a laundry list (of demands), then no movement at all is possible," former Waterford High athletic director Jim O'Neill said in 1998. "I don't see a way we can meet every individual concern. It just won't happen."

And Tuesday, ironically, was the day to air the laundry lists in a league awash in grousing, griping and grumbling. Instead, the dysfunctional troupe remained as such. Now don't complain about what you permit.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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