Discussing today’s announced partnership between the FCIAC and the HAN Network, a friend of mine who had children that played in the league asked a fairly reasonable question: Is there any reason I should care?
A lot of that depends on both your vantage point and expectations. In the very basic Xs and Os, league fans will see far greater streaming coverage on the HAN Network than they got on MSGVarsity. The fall broadcast schedule the rebranded company once known as Hersam Acorn Newspapers distributed included 25 league games. There are 11 football, five boys soccer, three girls soccer and six field hockey games. Fifteen of the 17 schools will appear at one time.
That is the obvious big plus, and remember it is just a starting point that likely will only grow with time. The negative? If it is a concern of yours, the level of production at the outset won’t be up to a par with MSGVarsity, which isn’t a knock at the HAN Network. MSGVarsity has the Cablevision machine behind it, the infrastructure and a workforce of people mainly with broadcast journalism backgrounds. In other words, it is to be expected.
No one will be shutting down their computers due to the number of available camera angles.
HAN Network, wisely from a business standpoint, has gone from dipping its toes to wading toward the middle of the pool. The deep end is the plan, though right now most of its talent is from the print journalism field as the company reinvents itself in a period of diminishing returns for those publishing newspapers. HAN Network is paying the FCIAC $24,000 a year. In the big picture, it is still low risk with the chance for high reward.
John Kuczo, the FCIAC’s executive secretary, has told me on several occasions he would love for the league to one day have its own television station. He won’t be overseeing the organization he has dedicated his life to if it happens, but perhaps the start of his final year will be recalled as when the first seeds were planted.
Today’s announcement is part of a period of change for the league that is happening rather suddenly. Within the course of the year, the FCIAC will have entered into a partnership with a company it hopes will ensure continued solvency and maybe even eventually make it a standard-bearer, lost two of its 19 member schools and, come June, its long-time leader.
The loss of two schools solves some problems and creates others. Harding and Bassick added little to the league outside of boys basketball, save for schools that needed what were often two assured wins to capture state tournament berths. On the flip side, the two Bridgeport schools will now be in an environment where they can be more competitive, which of course is a big positive for esteem and morale. Their departure also means scheduling problems in some sports at a time when it is harder to fill non-league openings.
Once schools were sitting on the FCIAC’s doorstep hoping for a permanent invitation. No more. An 18th school would be most welcome, especially for solving the thorny issue of filling the final piece of the football puzzle and a more fluid format.
As far as leadership, that is the FCIAC’s least concern. Dave Schulz, who will be Kuczo’s successor, has long been groomed for the job and has already handled many of the responsibilities that will soon become a full-time job. Some younger administrators are taking on bigger roles — that was Mike King, the Trumbull athletic director and league president, on the dais with Kuczo for Tuesday’s announcement. New voices with different ideas are always a good thing for a league that has always considered itself cutting edge.
The charge for the new leadership is to remain progressive while keeping the ship straight on choppy waters as the sports landscape presents new challenges at all levels.
Toward that, consider Tuesday’s announcement with the HAN Network the FCIAC’s first step.