Go ahead, bite the big apple


I lived in the Hamptons for seven and a half years. I know a snub when I see one.

Scheduling the Class L girls basketball final involving undefeated and No. 1 Capital Prep for 10 a.m. on Saturday morning? That was a diss, a little back-hand slap to a charter school with an outspoken operator and an outspoken girls basketball coach.

And the tip to a larger issue, of course.

Look, I have no problem with charter or magnet schools. The private business model is probably the best educational option for Connecticut’s big cities. Outside of them, public schools are sound. Inside of them, public schools too often fail.

And I have no problem with the CIAC basketball committees. Truly. They run the best state tournaments in Connecticut high school sports, as this year’s brackets, capped by the weekend finals at Mohegan Sun, proved once again.

But when it comes to dealing with the “schools of choice” issue, I’d really like to see the basketball committees — all of the CIAC, for that matter, in every sport — strip everything down to the common denominator to solve the problem, which is only going to grow as more of these schools continue to sprout.

No more mind-bending math, no more multiplying and dividing enrollments.

Bag, too, the “success in tournament” system adopted for the current year, in which a school of choice was classified based on how many state basketball quarterfinals it had reached in the three previous season. (That’s how Capital Prep, after winning Class S a year ago, got bumped up two divisions to Class L.)

Please, no more digs in the frozen food aisle. Just make like a smart grocer. Put apples with apples, oranges with oranges. Separate the parochials and the charters and the magnets from the public schools.

Schools that draw from a defined geographic area here, schools that draw beyond geographic boundaries there.

Mind you, this would just be for the CIAC tournaments. Fruit cocktail is fine for the regular season. Conferences are well-established. No need to upset those apple carts, as it were.

Keep the long-standing rivalries. Keep the divisions that conferences have taken pains to devise.

Spare the extra travel and expense that separate “all-choice” conferences would incur (though, it could be argued, the vo-tech schools have long been criss-crossing the state for the sake of playing fellow birds of a feather).

This certainly isn’t a knee-jerk proposal, one fed by watching choice schools win championships at the expense of the publics (though I confess delight in watching Fairfield Prep squander big halftime leads in both the Class LL football and basketball finals to Southington and Bridgeport Central).

The choice schools are always big players in the postseason, particularly in basketball, but they haven’t cornered the market yet. Seven of this year’s eight state hoop finals featured a choice school. Three of them — Lauralton Hall, Sacred Heart and Capital Prep — won a title.

Last year, six of the 16 state basketball finalists were choices. Two were crowned. Dating back five years, 41 percent (33 of 80) of the state finalists were choice and 35 percent (14 of 40) were champions.

Small potatoes for some, a major problem for others. It’s actually not a bad return based on the ratio of choice schools to publics.

For me, it’s an easy fix, with entertainment value to boot. (Hey, more tournament tickets for the CIAC to sell.)

I don’t mean to be flip. The CIAC has a good thing going with basketball. Mohegan Sun Arena is proving a great site for the finals. A pro atmosphere that’s just the right size. A destination that provides a some of that “going to states” vibe enjoyed in the larger dominions of the Lower 48.

If you still find exposing young’uns to the beeping neon allure of the casino a problem, well, you probably aren’t on Twitter or Instagram. Young people cast their eyes upon far worse every day, for hours a day, but that, my friends, is another issue for another morning.



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