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football FCIAC, CCC join scheduling alliance

January 26, 2019

The Connecticut High School Football Scheduling Alliance — a grassroots agreement between commissioners from leagues across the state to produce equitable schedules for their football programs — announced Friday it had added two more leagues to its membership and released schedules for the 2019 season.

The Alliance, which began with a crossover scheduling agreement the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC), the South-West Conference (SWC) and Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) in 2017, has added the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) and Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) beginning this year.

The new arrangement is a one-year deal.

The five leagues scheduled 99 interleague crossover games (up from 80 last season), a majority of which will be played over four weeks — Week 2 (Sept. 20), Week 3 (Sept. 27), Week 6 (Oct. 18) and Week 7 (Oct. 25), with a handful of matchups played during other weeks due to league scheduling conflicts.

SCC Commissioner Al Carbone said he and representatives of the five leagues met as a committee over the last few months to hammer out the matchups.

All 21 teams from the SCC, all 12 teams from the SWC and seven teams from the ECC are participating, with most of those schools receiving between three or four crossover dates. The 32 CCC teams were each given one crossover date. The 12 participating teams from the FCIAC were given between one or two crossover games.

The pairings were determined by a variety of factors, including CIAC playoff classification, school enrollment, roster size and program success over a five-year period. Other factors such as availability, and balancing out home and away games were also considered, Carbone said.

To fill the final spots, a handful of Alliance games include teams from the same league that otherwise weren’t scheduled to play — for example, Shelton vs. Xavier in Week 7.

Carbone admits the arrangement isn’t perfect — not all of each league’s members were available to participate, including defending Class LL champion Greenwich — but he says the expansion is a major step toward the long-term goal of wholesale restructuring of football scheduling in Connecticut at the conference level.

Leagues have always created their own schedules, not the CIAC, the state’s organizing body for high school athletics.

To determine its playoff participants, however, the CIAC uses a 40-year old formula based on a team’s record and its opponents’ wins and losses.

A common criticism of the playoff formula is that it doesn’t adequately account for strength of schedule, or even the strength of leagues.

Carbone says the Alliance’s hope is to align league scheduling to conform with the CIAC’s playoff criteria, giving teams more equitable roads to the postseason.

“What this means is we’re finally able to have a real discussion about scheduling,” Carbone said. “There are no more leagues. There are no more league championship games. It’s now more about where you’re slotted in regard to the state playoffs.

“What’s the goal of every football team? To get to the state playoffs. With the Alliance, you’re now playing teams in your class — more or less. You will have a direct impact to help or hurt your own cause (in the state playoff races). There will be less discussion about teams that played a lesser schedule making the state playoffs; instead, you’ll be getting the best eight teams into the playoffs.”

The Alliance announced its 2019 crossover games, with each of the participating commissioners — Carbone from the SCC, Dave Johnson of the SWC, Gary Makowicki of the ECC, Dan Scavone of the CCC and Dave Schulz of the FCIAC — announcing their support.

Schulz, however, admitted joining the Alliance didn’t fill the FCIAC team’s schedules as it expected. With an odd number of teams (17), the league staggers teams’ bye weeks across 12 weeks.

“We thought the Alliance would be able to fill all our byes,” Schulz said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get everything we wanted. Not everybody is happy.”

But the alternative, Schulz said, was not filling any of the FCIAC’s available bye weeks. “If you don’t do it, you can’t get games unless you go out of state because everybody’s else schedule in-state is filled,” Schulz said.

Ridgefield and defending Class LL champion Greenwich, for example, are in discussions with New Jersey programs to fill their bye dates.

“We’re going to work our way through it this year,” Schulz said. “We’ve already figured out some ways next year, a couple of concepts to make it so we can better align our schedules with the Alliance.

“We believe in the idea of it. If you look at it, there are a bunch of good games out there — Southington-Darien is a great matchup. And it’s a one-year commitment, so it’s not like we have to do home-and-home scheduling the next year.”

Overall, Carbone said he was pleased with the Alliance’s expansion.

“It’s been pleasure working with other leagues getting them to the table for this,” Carbone said. “The first two years were a start. Now, we’ve got two new leagues. It’s evolving. I look forward to the next year. Hopefully, we’ll have more.”

By more, Carbone means more teams from the participating leagues and, in the future, bringing the remaining three leagues — the Naugatuck Valley League, the Pequot League and Connecticut Technical Conference — into the fold. Carbone said he and the other alliance commissioners have had discussions with the remaining leagues and will continue to do so.

Sean.Bowley@hearstmediact.com; @SPBowley

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