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Marc Romano finally got the job he deserves: full-time athletic director

First, the good news: Marc Romano finally got the job he deserves: full-time athletic director. Total victory for Montville High. Romano's work was straight-A material in eight years at Fitch.

Now for the reality: The hierarchy within the Groton school system ought to ponder why a good man whose work merited league-wide respect, a good man who lives in Mystic and two of whose children attend Fitch felt compelled to leave for a smaller school.

The answer? Simple. Montville sits on the more advanced side of the learning curve, having chosen to make its athletic director job not only full time, but administrative.

Groton officials need to give such a thought more than cursory consideration. Neither I nor some of Romano's colleagues believe the line will form to the right of prospective (quality) candidates for the Fitch job. The athletic director's job has become high profile, 24/7/365 and awash in enough details to make additional teaching requirements unreasonable.

The majority of school systems in Connecticut agree. Ninety percent of them (165 schools) returned a survey to the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors (CAAD) from last March. Sixty-one percent (101 of 165) of high schools in Connecticut have full-time athletic directors now and 48 percent have made the jobs administrative.

Moreover, most of the schools who employ full-time ADs are at least of equal size to Fitch, whose enrollment of 1,043 kids only makes athletic director duties more time consuming.

Gone are the days — if those days honestly ever existed — where ADs were responsible for schedules, buses and officials. The scope of the job:

Medical clearance for all prospective athletes, monitoring academic eligibility for all athletes, roster input, scheduling of games for all sports, transportation to away events, finding and paying officials, coordinating site supervision, evaluation of coaches, purchasing, equipment and supplies, other budgetary considerations, interview prospective coaches, field phone calls from parents, inventory, awards, facility management, event coordination, auditing your coaching staff for certification (including first aid) and within the ECC, overseeing at least one sport's conference tournament.

And then there's the winter season when many ADs do not leave school until the night basketball game/wrestling match has concluded. It's a long day and night. There are no set hours.

Romano did all that at Fitch — and was a teacher, too. Now you know why the job at Montville sounds so appealing.

I'm not sure why Groton is stuck in a time warp. All other surrounding towns have turfed fields at their high schools (not at the middle school, as Groton is planning). New London has two turfed fields on its high school campus. Groton has none. New London, Waterford and Montville have full-time ADs. East Lyme's Steve Hargis teaches one class, but has several assistants. Jim Buonocore is Ledyard's athletic director and assistant principal. Lots of ingenuity and forward thinking throughout the region.

Then there's Groton.

I hope the people of Groton understand who they just lost. Romano did a wonderful job coordinating the ECC wrestling and baseball tournaments. He made quality hires among his coaching staff, including Arielle Cooper (Fitch grad, won a softball state title) and basketball coaches Charles Sylvan and D.J. Berger, who have turned their programs into winners.

There is no reason Romano shouldn't have been a full-time AD at Fitch. Consider his circumstances again: Lives in Mystic near the school. Two kids at school. Eight good years on the job. And he leaves for Montville. It's like living two blocks from Yankee Stadium and leaving to go manage the Cincinnati Reds.

At some point, life will resume as we know it. Groton has a wonderful sports tradition. Except that the person in charge of sports in town will be juggling teaching considerations among the thousand other tasks assigned to the athletic director.

It's time for Groton to join the other 61 percent of schools in the state and make the AD job full time. Marc Romano is a bad loss. But a great win for Montville.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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