Girls basketball Equal play
The CIAC voted earlier this month to approve the addition of a fifth division to the girls basketball state tournament format.
How the divisions will be shaped is still under discussion. The boys basketball tournament uses a five division format.
“The girls basketball committee approved it, now we have to work out the mechanics of it,” CIAC Associate Executive Director Gregg Simon said. “We surveyed athletic directors and coaches and 90% wanted to go to five divisions. We are run by membership and they want to go to five. One of the reasons being that the boys have five and this adds some fairness.”
Some items the CIAC is considering: Will the girls have a girls will have a Division-1 similar to the boys, where will schools of choice compete, will a success-modifier be included and how many teams will comprise each class.
“This is the first step,” Simon said. “We are in the process of thinking about what it will look like. We will be considering enrollment, success and whether a school can draw from outside of their town. We are going to look at all possible ways to do this including going to a Division-1 like the boys have.”
The boys Division I tournament was certainly met with some praise after year one and the girls feel their tournament could do the same.
“It was successful when the guys did it. Let’s see what happens when the girls do it,” Hamden coach Amanda Forcucci said. “I am interested to see how it looks and works, but if it’s good for girls basketball in Connecticut, I’m all for it. Anything that gives kids more exposure and opportunities to play, I think the good will outweigh the bad.”
Despite not knowing how the tournaments will operate, many coaches are on board with the new system, simply as a matter of gender equality.
“In 2019, I think, things need to be equal,” Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Eric DeMarco said. “As a guy who started when girls basketball was an afterthought to men’s basketball, and remembering having to play games at 3:30 and 5 because they were girls, I have a hard time with there being five boys champions and only four girls. It needs to be done for equity. Now that they have spread this tournament out as much as they have, and having the ability to play at the Mohegan Sun being such a great experience for everybody, then why not?”
Mohegan Sun in Uncasille is the destination of both the boys and girls basketball championship games.
The CIAC said adding a fifth division to the girls for a total of 10 divisions does present some scheduling problems at Mohegan Sun.
The CIAC and the member schools prefer to not have a game start late on a Sunday night with school the next day.
That opens the door for the championship weekend to spill over to a third day.
“Using Mohegan Sun presents logistical hurdles we will have to jump. We have spoke to the people at Mohegan and told them we were adding a 10th division and they were very accommodating,” Simon said. “We know it will be difficult to have 10 games in two days. It is hard to play late on Sunday night and we know we might have to add a third day and possibly a Monday game.”
While the debate of private vs.public schools in the smaller classes has not raged as hard on the girls side, it is still an issue and one the coaches and athletic directors, as indicated in the initial survey wanted addressed with the addition of a fifth division.
The hope of many is that schools of choice will be moved out of the lowest division, allowing smaller public schools the chance to compete against schools of similar size and means.
Currently, three of the four semifinalists in Class S — St. Paul, Trinity Catholic and Northwest Catholic — are private schools able to pull players from multiple towns. Canton is the fourth semifinalist in S with an enrollment of 488 students.
However, unlike the boys side where the private schools dominated M and S, on the girls side, Mercy in LL last season is the only private school to win a title the past two seasons.
Coaches are hopeful that whatever the last division is in the final arrangement, that small public schools are left competing in their own tournament much like Division V on the boys side.
“It may help the teams that don’t have as much of a chance in the lower divisions. Schools that can’t bring in players and you got what you got. Homebred kids,” Bristol Eastern coach Tony Floyd said. “It is difficult for them to win and could take 10 or 15 years to get to a state championship. Whereas East Catholic or some of the private schools, they can do it year in and year out, more often than we can. I’m not sure the girls are where the guys are because the guys have more prep schools and schools that can get recruits in there, but the girls have that too.”
Having coached at Class M Seymour before taking over at Notre Dame, DeMarco is well aware that not all schools in M and S are created equally.
And, if the new format includes a Division I like the boys, he knows his team will likely be one of the private schools bumped up to the top class.
“I don’t know what model they are going to follow, whether they will follow the boys or have a private-school caveat where we move up, which is fine with us. Then divide five by population,” DeMarco said. “Honestly, having coached at Seymour and being aware of schools like Ansonia and Derby, if you go by success as opposed to size you create some true equity and put some meaning in that fifth banner that you are adding. It just depends on how they do it.”