Now that the final block has been thrown, and the state champions have all been crowned, we hope that the CIAC takes a closer look at recent changes on the football field. There’s a growing battle between the haves and have nots that seems to tip the scales against some of the poorer and smaller programs in the state.
This season, technology took a giant leap forward as television monitors began popping up on some sidelines. For some teams, groups of varsity players huddled around big screen televisions, while their teammates were battling on the field. Defenses huddled around defensive coordinators, going through the game film in real time. Then, offenses would do the same, making small adjustments between possessions.
We have no problem with technology advancement in high school sports. The shot clock was a great addition to high school basketball, and the CIAC has done a great job in recent years, acting as wardens to make sure all playoff teams have access to opponent game films. Fairness and equality have been the focus as they rolled out both advancements. That hasn’t been the case with televisions.
For much of the season, Southington High School benefited from this advantage. Top 10 battles with New Britain and East Hartford went down to the wire, but Southington prevailed in both contests with come-from-behind rallies. This is nothing new. Southington coaches have always been good at making halftime adjustments and tweaking the game plan, but we couldn’t help but wonder if the televisions helped give this year’s Knights an unfair edge?
Southington faced New Britain in a much-heralded battle of unbeatens in Week Five. New Britain’s game plan resulted in an 18-7 lead after three quarters before Southington was able to secure the lead down the stretch with a pair of comeback rallies. At 7-0, the Knights faced East Hartford in another battle between unbeaten teams. This time, the Hornets jumped out to a 21-7 lead before Southington could make the adjustment. The offense couldn’t seem to make a first down at the start, but became unstoppable as the game went on. The defense couldn’t muster a stop in the opening quarter, but rallied for three interceptions down the stretch.
Both opponents seemed to have more trouble handling the Knights as the games wore on, falling in second half rallies. Both times, Southington was on the road. Both times, the home team had the disadvantage. Southington could afford televisions; New Britain and East Hartford could not.
Of course there were other factors, but an argument could be made that the richer team had the advantage. All season, Southington got better as games went on.
It was also interesting that both teams that reached the Class LL finals had televisions (or more than one) on the sidelines. We wonder if there would have been any grumbles on Southington’s sidelines had they reached the final game with fewer TVs on their bench?
We love seeing technological changes leading to better products on the field, but it’s unfair unless both sides benefit. Even the NFL has an “Equity Rule” that requires that both teams have practical equity with everything from equipment to locker room conveniences. If one team’s coach-to-coach communication system isn’t working, both teams have to shut it down until the issue is resolved. If we are going to add professional technology to the high school game, shouldn’t we be professional about the way we do it?
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.