The FCIAC football coaches have long been criticized — and deservedly so — for taking a Little League mentality when it has come to the way they pick their All-Conference team.
Namely, too many players take home awards. It seems participation is more important than excellence, effectively watering down the significance of being honored.
And with this year’s All-FCIAC teams, the coaches again have failed to disappoint. The number of first team players: 36. The number of second team players: 41. That is 77. Allowing for kickers and punters, that is 29 more than you would have if the choices made were strictly the best by position, with two running backs, two receivers and one tight end.
Throw in the All-Division and honorable mention selections and that is 144 players that will have certificates to hang on their refrigerators or put into their scrapbooks.
Coaches no doubt look out for their best players when the voting takes place. But the appearance is an aversion to making hard choices.
It is a curious process. The league boasts about being the best in the state. This year of the 16 spots in Class LL and L tournaments, the FCIAC accounted for six of them. Eight teams will be playing in Monday night’s semifinals and half will be from the conference.
That makes what the coaches opted to do with this year’s voting all the more embarrassing. No doubt concerned about having over-representation by the best teams, there is one player from each of the 17 schools on the All-FCIAC team. No team was allowed to have more than three players. Every school also has one player on the second team.
So instead of putting the best of the best on the first team, the coaches made sure that each went home at least somewhat happy with a player being honored.
There no doubt was a backlash from recent history, where the best teams had the most players on the first team. Last year Greenwich had eight and New Canaan and St. Joseph seven each. Those schools accounted for two titles and one runner-up spot.
“So instead of putting the best of the best on the first team, the coaches made sure that each went home at least somewhat happy with a player being honored.”
And while we will try not to get too subjective here, how does the league look when the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, St. Joseph’s Jack Wallace, was not picked to either the first or second team. That almost certainly is due to Wallace being a junior, and the quarterbacks ahead of him all being seniors, and not his performance.
Postseason awards are supposed to be meritorious, not socialism. Last year Greenwich, New Canaan and St. Joseph achieved success by having better players than their opponents, so it is just common sense they would have more players named to the first team.
If you look at this year’s selections, just at a quick first glance, without doing any analysis, it is obvious a number of players on the second team were denied their due because of the three-player, every-school-gets-one-player limits.
In boys and girls lacrosse, the perennial powers have dominated the postseason honors. Seventeen of the 21 players named first team All-FCIAC in boys lacrosse last spring and 18 of the 22 in girls lacrosse came from Darien, New Canaan and Wilton.
There is a sensitive atmosphere in football. It is much like lacrosse: a handful of the same teams pursuing championships annually. But by elevating an undeserving player to make sure every school is represented, you are also punishing a deserving player.
Football is different than all other sports because of the numbers involved. And just about every sport picks a few extra players than the number of starters to their first teams.
There would be little to dispute if there were, say, 55-60 players combined on the first and second teams, with some honorable mention picks.
But please, lets hope this was a one-year experiment and the league goes back to putting its very best players on the All-FCIAC team.
Because this year a first rate conference looks second rate at best with its postseason awards.