The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference is under scrutiny by the Connecticut Legislature after the passage of a bill that will convene a task force to study CIAC’s leadership structure and how the organization receives and resolves complaints.
The creation of the task force was enshrined in Senate Public Law No. 22-116 dealing with, among other things, special education, school mental health specialists, and professional development.
Rep. Bobby Sanchez (D-New Britain), chairman of the House Education Committee, said the section of the bill came out of a discussion with other lawmakers, as well as Len Fasano, the former Republican President of the Senate pro tempore. Sanchez said Sen. Doug McCrory (D-Hartford), co-chair of the education committee, also raised the issue of diversity within CACL leadership and its committees.
“Fasano and other lawmakers had wondered why [the CIAC] had so much power over the schools and the schools didn’t have much say,” Sanchez said. “We said, ‘OK, let’s create this committee where they can review and talk about the effectiveness of CACL, and include them. They were due to report to us in January 2023, at the next session, on their findings – what processes will they change? Answer Senator McCrory’s question about possibly making it more diverse. And they promised to do it.
“Now we will wait to see the report in January. If the report comes out and they correct it and it’s satisfactory, we don’t act, we don’t do anything. But if we feel that the report was not enough and that more needs to be done, at this point we can legislate some changes ourselves.
CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini declined to comment on the task force, but issued a statement that read in part, “The CIAC welcomes the opportunity presented by this task force to deepen the understanding of state legislators on the structure, collaboration, processes of change, leadership and student recognition programs designed to provide the best possible interscholastic experiences for students in its member schools.
The working group will be made up of a coach, an athletic director, an administrator, a public school diversity expert from the CIAC as well as an expert in sports management, two parents of athletes from the CIAC and Lungarini, who could be part of the working group or designate someone. Members of the working group will be appointed by the legislature and may be members of the General Assembly.
Fasano voiced his criticism of the organization, which governs high school sports and has been criticized in the past for a policy that does not allow coaches to work with off-season athletes, transgender policies and the cancellation of the football season in 2020. in response to the pandemic, among other issues.
“We control the teachers, the curriculum, the buses, but we have no say in athletics and we should take a look at it to see how it’s going,” Fasano said. “I think people decided it was time we looked at some of these things. I wasn’t that involved. I heard about it. I weighed in on it with those I knew. were talking about it. I think it’s a good thing to do.
“Athletics is huge. A lot of parents look at it as a way to get scholarships for their kids. And when it’s controlled by something that’s totally unregulated to the point that I would say it raises some serious questions about how the rules work, i think the legislator should look into it, check it out and if they’re comfortable leave it alone and if they’re not comfortable change it them.
Joe Aresimowicz, the former House speaker and current Berlin football coach, said issues with the CIAC had been simmering over time, but he disagreed with forming a task force .
“It was all the one-off reproaches that came together – at the right time or the wrong time, depending on how you see it – and they thought, ‘This is our opportunity, can we move on? said Aresimowicz, now a lobbyist at Gaffney, Bennet and Associates. “They drummed all their one-offs, talked about structure, and it got to the level of ‘well, we’ll do something’.”
Others, like Sanchez, thought the CIAC was doing a good job, but that improvements could be made.
“I’m concerned about not having enough people of color and making it more diverse,” Sanchez said. “And I also had the concern that other senators and representatives had about their schools having a certain type of voice.”
Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria (R-105th District), an athletic trainer at Lauralton Hall School in Milford, introduced a bill mandating the wearing of neck guards for all young ice hockey players after death of a St. Luke’s player at Greenwich during a match when another player collided with him and cut his neck (it was unclear whether or not the deceased player was wearing a neck guard). The CIAC requires neck guards for players at schools under its jurisdiction, but St. Luke’s is a preparatory school and does not fall under CIAC rules.
“I said, ‘Look, my focus as a sports coach is always on athlete safety. It turned into “Let’s make it a working group so we can study it”. Then it turned into – not from me – other legislators who wanted to do a study of the whole CIAC,” Klarides-Ditria said. “Personally, I think CIAC is doing a great job, especially Glenn Lungarini. Prior to Glenn, CIAC was not transparent. I don’t know who specifically wanted to study CIAC, but that’s where we ended up.
Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125th District) said he had no involvement in the current legislation, but tried to put together a task force to study the CIAC in 2017.
“When Glenn came in we met and he understood my position, so I didn’t push this legislation to create a task force because I thought Glenn was doing a good job trying to do that,” he said. said O’Dea. “My problems with CIAC predated Glenn. That said, I think we should always do better. I learned a bit more about the task force after the bill came out.
“It’s something that should be looked at, but the question then becomes, what kind of surveillance? You don’t want it to be politicized, which I don’t think it is now.
Lori Riley can be reached at [email protected]