CIAC's latest boys' basketball edict betrays all hints of equity

The dizzying level to which the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state's governing body for high school athletics, doesn't get it almost defies explanation.

Unless you use its latest state tournament concoction within boys' basketball as the explanation.

And to think the most recent state tournament was among the most fair and balanced in state history, mostly separating public schools from schools of choice, achieving the preeminent goal for which the CIAC is responsible: equity. A fair baseline for competition.

Hence, CIAC needed to charge its boys' basketball committee with nothing more than minor adjustments for future tournaments, perhaps one day using boys' basketball as a model to promote similar equity in other sports.

But the CIAC's latest edict, detailing a five-division format, betrays all hints of equity that this year's tournament achieved. Small public schools aren't merely grouped with more schools of choice, but are lumped with large public schools with seven and eight times the enrollment.

Clearly, the committee cannot and will not accept the premise that schools of choice, with the ability to attract students from multiple towns, own a perpetual competitive advantage over public schools, whose talent pools are limited to town borders. And this new format, as you will read, even discards the notion that enrollment bears major significance in a school's placement.

The committee, composed mostly of school administrators, "ranked" all 183 programs based on a multi-platform, one-size-fits-all formula, using "power point and CIAC Tournament results from three previous seasons."

Holy Obtuseness, Batman. How is it possible that so many from the Six Figure Salary Club are either ignorant or arrogant enough to think some contrived formula can accurately depict 183 programs, all of which are bound by the vagaries of enrollment, league affiliation and geography?

All success is not equal. Small public high schools are generally successful playing other small public high schools. Yet the CIAC's new format penalizes them for success, thrusting small schools into bigger divisions, thus ignoring the biggest factor in their success: That they got to compete against public schools their own size.

Then there's this: It's high school sports. Kids graduate. Programs change. And if you do not have the ability to attract kids from multiple towns, you are much more susceptible to the cyclical whims of high school athletics. Except that what if your success stuck you in a bigger division?

There is neither a formula nor a person with enough institutional knowledge to accurately rank all 183 programs. Divisions must be determined on a year-to-year basis. They must be done collaboratively among committee members and representatives from each conference who can report which schools are expected to contend based on returning talent and graduation losses.

Heck, they might even ask Joe Morelli for his input. Morelli, who writes for GameTimeCT, the state's premier high school sports website, knows more about state boys' high school basketball than anyone else. He sees teams in every league. He has contacts in and out of the media and throughout Connecticut who could provide the committee valuable knowledge without bias.

Ah, but Joe is just some guy from the media who apparently doesn't belong in the Six Figure Salary Division.

Here's a look at what the committee has wrought for 2019:

• Wamogo, a small regional public school of 187 boys from the Litchfield County metropolis towns Goshen, Morris and Warren, played in this season's Division V (generally featuring the state's smallest schools) championship game. The committee decided that Wamogo's success merited a two-division jump to Division III.

Wamogo now occupies a division with Staples (991 boys), Newtown (844) and Bridgeport Central (819). It's comical. It's Class S playing Class LL. Can someone from CIAC explain how this reflects equity? A school of 187 boys, successful because it got to compete against other schools of similar size, penalized for its success?

• Lyman Memorial (170 boys), Old Saybrook (218) and Windsor Locks (219) occupy Div. IV next year with New Canaan (669) and St. Joseph of Trumbull, a school of choice. Once again: What does Saybrook have in common with a school three times bigger or a school of choice that attracts kids from 20-plus towns?

• Brookfield (415) and Waterford (428) won state titles in the last two seasons. Brookfield won Class M in 2017 and Waterford Div. III this year. Essentially, Class M and Div. III were the same thing, mostly composed of other medium-sized public schools.

Their reward? A spot in Division II next year with Xavier, whose school website trumpets its ability to get kids from 60 different towns, as well as Greenwich (1,368 boys) and New Britain (1,208).

How is it possible Waterford and Brookfield will play for the same trophy as a school of choice that gets kids from all over Connecticut and two public schools with three times as many boys?

This entire divisional format is absurd and inequitable. A bunch of administrators fell in love with a contrived mathematical formula and their own hubris.

Know who pays the price next year? The kids. Always the kids.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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