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School administrators decide to keep ECC together

Administrators from all member schools met Friday morning at St. Bernard School and decided to keep the Eastern Connecticut Conference together.

The league will exist through a three-division format with no assigned crossover games between Division I (East Lyme, Ledyard, Fitch, New London, NFA) and Division III (Plainfield, Griswold, Tourtellotte, Windham, Wheeler, St. Bernard and Lyman Memorial). Division II, which will play Division I in crossover games, consists of Waterford, Montville, Stonington, Bacon Academy, Woodstock Academy and Killingly.

The ECC will remain a six-team, three-division enrollment-based league in sports with full participation for the 2015-16 academic year, allowing ECC officials time to work out master schedules for the newly-approved format in time for the 2016-17 academic year.

The Division I schools (minus NFA), which announced recently their intention to form the Southeastern Connecticut Athletic Conference, will return to the ECC and now fill schedules with crossovers and through an alliance with the Southern Connecticut Conference.

“The most important concerns for me start with fair opportunities for our student-athletes,” Ledyard principal Amanda Fagan said. “The other piece, like all administrators, is that we weren’t interested in the kids being on buses for massive commutes to away games. To be able to preserve the traditions and still get quality competition in our league and through the alliance with the SCC is attractive to us.”

Al Carbone, commissioner of the SCC, told the website GameTimeCT on Friday, "We're looking forward to talking to them."

The three-division format represents a hybrid of the enrollment-based and power-based scheduling concepts. Alignment, according to the agreement, will be reviewed in three-year cycles, although there will be yearly reviews in each sport and individual programs will have the ability to request division changes.

Stonington principal Mark Friese, chairman of the ECC Board of Directors, said in a release Friday that "power scheduling" will be used to determine all crossovers between Division I and II schools and that "opt outs" can be requested, but only through mutual agreement between to two schools.

If an agreement can not be made, Friese said, an Opt Out Committee comprised of an athletic director from each division will "review presented data and make the final decision."

The league also voted to hire a league commissioner in time for the 2015-16 academic year. The commissioner will also oversee opt out requests, Friese said.

More details, such as whether to play one ECC tournament in all sports or two, will be determined once a commissioner is hired, more dialogue takes place between athletic directors, and as plans for the new alignment are finalized.

“To their credit, several members of the ECC Advisory Board persevered in their efforts to generate a league alignment that could reasonably meet the needs of all of the schools involved,” East Lyme principal Mike Susi said. “Grouping the four of us with NFA in Division I provides healthy competition within the league and still allows us some independence in scheduling.”

Fagan said the now defunct SCAC did serve a purpose, if for no other reason than creating the scheduling alliance with the SCC.

Friese, speaking on behalf of the 18 principals, said, "It was most evident at today's meeting that the underlying desire among the ECC schools has been to remain together all along. These months of questions, debates and inquiries into other conferences has been a necessary and healthy process.

"It is quite admirable that the ECC principals and athletic directors dedicated countless hours to ensure that the league could continue its rich tradition in eastern Connecticut. Safety, competitiveness and economy were the hallmarks of this agreement ... We are all excited to expand our collaboration and continue to make the ECC a model conference for our students and community."

m.dimauro@theday.com

Twitter: @BCgenius

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