Mike DiMauro: Will legislators influence future CIAC policies?

·4 min read

Aug. 4—News item: I recently learned that statewide dismay and frustration has prompted a state legislative task force to investigate the procedures and policies of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state's governing body of high school athletics.

Legislative sources later sent the particulars of Public Act 22-116: "A task force to study the governance structure and internal procedures of CIAC. Such study shall include, but need not be limited to, an examination of the leadership structure of the conference, how leadership positions are filled and how the conference receives and resolves complaints filed by members of the conference and individuals.

"Not later than January 1, 2023, the task force shall submit a report on its findings and recommendations to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education."

The Speaker of the House, Senate President, House Majority leader, Senate Majority leader, House Minority leader and Senate Minority leader will augment the task force by combining to appoint one coach and one athletic director from CIAC member schools, two guardians/parents of athletes from CIAC schools and experts in diversity and sports management at member schools.

If this task force takes this assignment seriously, necessary changes may be coming to what many of us believe is an organization long out of touch with its constituency.

I've reached out to a number of coaches, athletic directors and administrators in recent days, asking them what task force members should investigate. What follows is a summary (as well as some of my own thoughts):

— Who is in charge of day-to-day oversight at CIAC? Whose interests do they represent?

— Who hired executive director Glenn Lungarini and associate executive director Gregg Simon? What was the hiring process? What are the qualifications of the people doing the hiring? How does anyone get hired at CIAC?

— "The CIAC is a compilation of its member schools," one administrator said. "But we don't know where the people at CIAC come from or how they got there. In our district, like all districts, we all know how superintendents are hired, for example. At CIAC, we know nothing."

— Who decides salaries? Why is Lungarini ($225,000) the third-highest paid executive director of a high school sports governing body in the country, despite Connecticut's modest size and number of schools?

— Where are the dues schools pay for membership and later for state tournament participation assigned?

— Why haven't member schools been sent specific information about the CIAC's newly-adopted Name-Image-Likeness rules? I've attended summer league events across multiple sports this summer and continue to get bombarded with NIL questions.

They're important, given that cheating in Connecticut high school sports is already rampant. Some coaches are petrified of the future, now that there's an opportunity to pay players. They have myriad questions on many levels for their athletic directors and administrators and nobody can give guidance, because they've received none. How is that possible?

— Why does CIAC continue to ignore the protests of small, public high schools who have perpetual, competitive disadvantages against Catholic schools? Why are Catholic schools allowed to participate in Class S?

The task force should know that in the recent spring state tournament, the CIAC allowed East Catholic to play Wheeler in a girls' lacrosse game. East Catholic, according to its website, attracts students from more than 30 cities and towns in the greater Hartford area. Wheeler, small and rural, as fewer than 200 kids in the entire school. How is it possible those two schools could ever play for the same trophy?

— Why are state tournament divisions classified by raw enrollment numbers and not by how the numbers are composed? Example: A school of choice with 300 boys from 30 different towns has a competitive advantage over a public school with 300 kids from one town. Instead of enrollment numbers and one-size-fits-all formulas, why can't the CIAC and its sports committees conduct deep dives into individual program details, making equity — a fair baseline to compete — more possible?

— Why did the CIAC fail to pass a detailed plan authored by Southern Connecticut Conference officials in 2019 that would permit high school coaches to instruct players out of season — knowing many other states already do so? Kids and coaches in poorer towns, whose families cannot afford private lessons or camps, are falling behind their brethren in towns with more means.

This task force has more of a massive undertaking than perhaps it realizes. I hope it is truly not bound by a timetable and instead opts for diligence and thoroughness. The kids, parents, coaches, athletic directors, administrators and community members are counting on you.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro