Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Politics on the gridiron

New London has contributed more to the national conversation about over-reaching governmentish bodies than any other town in Connecticut. It was New London that gave us Kelo v. New London, and the talk of eminent domain became kitchen table conservation all throughout the country. In June of this year, New London gave us the "Jack Cochran" rule, or as most football junkies refer to it, "the wussification of football rule". To the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) it is the "Score Management Rule".

The rule basically states that any coach whose team wins by a margin of 50 points or more will be suspended for the team's next game for unsportsmanlike conduct. A school can have up to 48 hours to appeal the suspension. The rule came into being after a New London football team posted a 90-0 win over a Griswold, which was really the icing on the cake so to speak since the team had victory margins over over 50 four times last year. The New London coach was Jack Cochran, whose sportsmanship came into question many times, which in turn ultimately led him to resign after punching another coach from another school during a joint weightlifting workout.

It didn't take long for the first game to break the 50 point margin of victory and thus the first appeal. That happened on September 15th when Bridgeport Central won 56-0 over Bassick. So in went Bridgeport central football coach Dave Cadelina to appeal the rule and out came the first wussification of the rule, the CIAC said "The review committee was convinced that Bridgeport Central's coach made the necessary legitimate efforts to manage the score of this game to the best of his ability."(WFSB)

And so we have administrators coming up with a rule to correct the behavior of one guy, by arbitrarily messing with the the most fundamental aspect of a sport, scoring, only to have them arbitrarily decide that the score maybe isn't enough to make a judgement. Football shouldn't be this complicated.

Joe Palladino of the Waterbury Connecticut Republican American raises the political implications of this football story:
But still, there is a deeper issue here, one that we happily ignore. We are concerned about how coaches manage the scoreboard in football when we really need to ask this question: What should we do about the competitive imbalance that exists in all high school games?

That leads to this disturbing question: Should we dismantle our current athletic structure?

Instead of fixating on the final score, should we be wondering why an Ansonia plays Sacred Heart in football in the first place? Or why the Crosby boys play Wolcott in basketball? Or why Seymour softball plays Wilby? Or why anybody swims against the Cheshire girls? Shouldn't we align our schools in a more intelligent manner? Why does a "LL" school like Naugatuck play its entire schedule against smaller schools, some more than half its size? Why don't we group schools by enrollment in the regular season like we do in the tournament season? Would that solve our competitive imbalance?

Predictably campaigns across Connecticut speak to Education, with choruses of spend more, test more, fix more, but it seems that there is something more intrinsically wrong with our schools when the sports teams can't compete because of administrative decisions designed to address a specific individual's behavior. It seems that maybe the fundamental problem with schools are the administrators whose programs and studies lead to these predicaments. And maybe that trickles down from politicians who are more concerned with banning soda, than questioning why educational costs keep going up while sports and other extra-curricular programs keep getting cut.

In the case of the blowouts, there was a better choice. CIAC could have adopted the "running clock" rule recommended by the National Federation of High Schools. This rule simply suspends the clock stoppages that happen on incompletions, penalties or when the ball goes out of bounds, but only when a team leads by more than 35 in the second half.

Our political debate however, will studiously avoid the real issues affecting education. Oh sure, there will be some talk about property tax reform and the linkage to ECS. But the shape of the debate will revert to form, one side advocating grandiose programs, and the other advocating against anything that increases costs. One can wish though that the relentless march towards behavior management rules will one day slow down.

50-point rule quickly turns into a laugher, The Connecticut Post, by Sean Patrick Bowley, 09/21/06

First 50-Point Rule Suspension Overturned, WFSB 09/20/06

Rule ignores root cause of routs, Republican-American, by Joe Palladino 09/10/2006


Anonymous said...

If we applied the 50 point rule to the Governor's race, Rell might have to sit out a quarter or two!

bluecoat said...

I am surprised turffgrrl didn't refer to the rule as the Griswold Decision instead of pinning the problem on New London.