It Seems To Me… Thumbs Up On Lacrosse Recruiting, Thumbs Down On State Basketball Proposal

Players from Darien, New Canaan and all other FCIAC lacrosse teams will benefit from the NCAA’s new recruiting legislation. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

It seems to me I haven’t penned an It seems to me… in some time, and I am one never lacking in opinions.

So I am putting on my rally cap.

It seems to me…One of the biggest issues that affects a large number of athletes in this area was remedied two weeks ago when the NCAA passed a proposal that impacts the recruiting process for lacrosse players.

The new ruling prohibits college lacrosse coaches from communicating with prospective student-athletes until Sept. 1 of their junior year of high school.

The debate has been one I have had a strong opinion on, and since shared my feelings in a few brief tweets, but not here.

The passage has been widely hailed, especially by FCIAC coaches. In the past, lacrosse players have been pursued by schools based on their play during summer showcases, and many have been pressured into making one of the most important life decisions during their freshmen or sophomore years. This is a hard enough choice for a senior, let alone underclassmen whose academic interests, not to mention the development of their talent, are certain to change.

So why haven’t they waited? Because it has been high school sports’ version of musical chairs: everyone else is signing and there is pressure to also sign for fear that a scholarship offered as a freshman or sophomore might not be available as a senior.

There will finally be a little bit more normalcy for lacrosse players. Most high school students start to seriously consider their future options as juniors. Now lacrosse players will be able to make more informed decisions, especially taking into account schools that may better fit academic pursuits.

It also benefits both sides because it allows for athletes who may mature later or peak early. I wrote last month about New Canaan’s Campbell Armstrong, one of the state’s best players, whose development really took off as a sophomore. She recently gave a verbal commitment to play at St. Lawrence.

Now lacrosse players will be able to make more informed decisions, especially taking into account schools that may better fit academic pursuits.

It really bothers me when Division I is used as a measuring stick for success; it is quite an achievement to play at the Division III level, which is quite competitive. By the same token, under the new rules Armstrong would be a Division I recruit and had more options if she chose she wanted to challenge herself at a higher level.

At the same time, there are players who don’t show much improvement after their freshman or sophomore years. Rather than forced into honoring a commitment at a school where they may now sit on a bench for four years, they can decide on a program that benefits their skill level. This obviously helps the college team as well.

Finally, there are a few athletes I know who experienced success in other sports after giving a verbal commitment to play lacrosse at the next level. I know of at least one or two that would have likely ended up playing a different sport under this new ruling.

This is a win-win-win for everyone involved, and will help high school and club coaches trying to navigate their players through an already demanding process.

Many feel schools like Trinity Catholic and Westbrook, which met in March’s Class S state basketball final, should not be paired in the same playoff classes. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

It seems to me…I will go into this in much greater detail very soon, but if the early sampling from coaches is an accurate gauge, there will be great resistance to the absurd proposal that is now being vetted to try and finally fine-tune the CIAC boys basketball tournament to mass approval.

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In an email sent out to coaches by tournament director Jiggs Cecchini, the boys basketball committee wants to go to five divisions on a trial basis next year, with Division I ostensibly the “superdivision” that will help narrow the advantage schools of choice, or private schools, have had.

It sounds good in theory, in that the top division would be based on criteria like past tournament success and enrollment. There would be 23 schools in Division I and the next four divisions would start with 40 schools. I say start, because all of the schools in Division I would be guaranteed of playoff qualification regardless of record, one of the many unsavory aspects of this ill-conceived plan.

There are so many arbitrary criteria that it looks more like the committee decided first which schools it wanted to place in Division I, and then tried to construct a formula to make them fit, rather than the other way around. Just to contrast two FCIAC schools, Greenwich is in Division I only because of its size, given an undistinguished recent history, while Westhill, coming off a 6-13 season but having won the FCIAC title the previous two years, is in Division II. Success over a three-year period and in power conferences are weighted items.

The fact that schools even have the option to appeal their placement is a flashing red light that something is wrong. And in the most embarrassing aspect, Cecchini wrote to one coach that he reviewed returning players. So now the committee is going to also try to predict in advance how teams are going to do? Good luck.

It is noble that the committee continues to try to fix the problem but disheartening that the ideas are not getting any better. All coaches I have spoken to have been critical of the proposal — adding a fifth state champion is another sticking point — and I’ve been told one very prominent coach outside the FCIAC is hoping to arrange a meeting with CIAC officials not on the committee.

I think it is time we come to the conclusion that we have to do away with the band-aids and finally dive into the deep end: Create a separate schools of choice division along with three others based on school size. All other solutions have flaws.

Cord Fox and the Darien baseball team are in the running for a second straight league title. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

It seems to me…As the talent level has grown, each FCIAC baseball season has been more fascinating than the last in recent years. Some of it, as we will again see in the upcoming weeks, is that baseball more than any other sport is most adversely affected by a single elimination format, but that also has made the regular season a rollercoaster ride.

Perhaps no team has seen its fortunes change more strikingly than Danbury, which has had stretches of both winning and losing three of four games and also had three-game winning and losing streaks.

In the town of Trumbull, the Eagles are currently on a fast climb while St. Joseph is in a free fall. Fairfield Warde started the year 0-6, is 6-9 over all — and would be one of the eight qualifiers for the FCIAC Tournament if the season ended today.

All teams have played between nine and 11 conference games, and if you remove the top three teams the next eight are separated by just three games in the loss column.

Bring on the playoffs.

It seems to me…One of the hot fads the past few years is the so-called Promposal, where students come up with creative ways to invite dates to the prom. The better ones, usually with the use of catchy phrases on posters, involving athletes are often shared on social media by team and athletic department accounts. The one below, on the Twitter account belonging the to Darien girls lacrosse team, captured at a recent fundraiser boys lacrosse player Finlay Collins asking out girls lacrosse player Emma Lesko on the Darien football stadium scoreboard. It stood out to me because it prompted this thought: if you could come up with a coed beach volleyball version of lacrosse, the team of Collins and Lesko would be pretty tough to beat.