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Recent events prove ECC needs just one voice ... and quickly

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published May 30. 2013 4:00AM   Updated May 30. 2013 10:01AM

That paragon of dysfunction, otherwise known as the Eastern Connecticut Conference, was in midseason form over the weekend, when the league softball tournament masqueraded as the ECC's first foray into reality television: "Real Softball Coaches Of The Connecticut Hills."

They bickered over venues, fields at the particular venues, rules interpretations, when games should be played, whether games should be played. They bickered via email, behind each other's backs and even face to face, setting a spectacular educational example for the kids.

Just another example of how desperately the ECC needs a commissioner. A leader. A voice. A smart, strong-willed, fair-minded soul who will enforce the rules like balls and strikes: dispassionately, fairly, consistently.

Other leagues in Connecticut, more sophisticated and functional, have commissioners. Take the 22-school Southern Connecticut Conference, for example. Its commissioner, Al Carbone, has no affiliation to any of the schools, working in government relations for United Illuminating.

"I have a real job," Carbone was saying earlier this week. "The principals and athletic directors do the work, essentially, but it's our job to run the league, be the voice of the league. We're one league, not 22 different schools. Every league has issues. But you try to be the unbiased voice that does things for the good of the league."

Carbone said each school pays dues to the league that helps pay his salary. His job also entails pursuing corporate sponsorship to help pay the league's bills. He is the SCC's liaison to the media and the public. One voice.

"We tell the coaches before tournaments begin, 'here's the scenario for rainouts, here's what we're going to do, here's what we're not going to do,'" Carbone said. "We don't want coaches dictating to us.

"We ask the schools what their issues are, like proms and things like that," Carbone said. "Then we make it clear there's no favoritism. Nobody is dictating anything. It's a league. At some point, all of our schools ask for favors. We try to work with everyone."

Carbone said league business runs smoother with one voice. The SCC and Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference formed a football scheduling alliance recently, giving its programs easier opportunities to schedule nonconference games. It's no more complicated that this: Carbone knew the person to call. The FCIAC has a commissioner (John Kuczo).

"We've said to other leagues that need a commissioner," Carbone said. "We can do things together. Some leagues have rotating athletic directors that speak and sometimes, you don't know who to call. Sometimes, those athletic directors don't know all the particular situations."

True enough: An ECC commissioner is not the elixir. The league would remain a helicopter drop of schools with disparate enrollments, whims and laundry lists of complaints.

But a commissioner could dive into the league bylaws and remove all ambiguities, thereby assigning coaches the singular task of coaching their teams. Their personal whims would become irrelevant. It's one voice. One voice that would quell the perception of this aimless, rudderless wreck.

Potential candidates: Former New London School Board President Elaine Maynard-Adams, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital Vice President for Development and Community Relations Bill Stanley, former New London and Waterford athletic director Jim O'Neill, former Day columnist Chuck Potter, former Putnam athletic director Bob Demars, either one of the brothers Buscetto, Bill or Mike, outgoing Waterford High principal Don Macrino, former Coast Guard basketball coach Pete Barry, former Mitchell basketball coach Rich Conover.

That's just a few. They are smart, tough, accomplished and fair-minded. They'd need to be to combat the daily whines and whims.

League poohbahs can hate this all they want. But if they ever stepped away from their bubbles and took an objective look at the conduct of their constituencies, they'd see an embarrassment. They'd surely have seen one over the weekend. And they'll surely understand it will happen again.

Churchill's line about democracy being the worst form of government, except for all the others, doesn't extend to the ECC.

Democracy doesn't work here. It's time for a benevolent dictatorship.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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