The CIAC football committee held its most recent meeting in January, where the major topic of discussion was a review of the just-completed season.
Toward the end, the Score Management Policy, better known as the 50-point rule, which mandates that coaches of teams that defeat an opponent by 50 or more points be suspended for the following game, was brought up. During a discussion that lasted somewhere between 20 to 30 minutes, options such as the use of a running clock, which is the policy in a number of states, and abolishing it during the playoffs were discussed.
According to two sources in the room, neither of whom would comment publicly, the rule was on the verge of being completely overturned when New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli, who is one of its staunchest defenders, made a compelling argument that caused the committee to at least table any further discussion until April.
“I know a lot of people are not in favor of it,” Marinelli said of what is perhaps the CIAC’s most controversial directives, one that brought national attention when it was first enacted in 2006. “But it is a reminder that in our business you never want to demoralize kids from another program. There’s no need to score 50 points in a game. That’s seven touchdowns.”
The rule was tested in its first season, when Bridgeport Central defeated Bassick, 56-0. Hilltoppers coach Dave Cadelina appealed and his suspension was overturned. Since that time, including two games this past season, every petition has been overturned. The rule has been enforced once, against East Hartford in 2007, which reportedly did not appeal.
Because New Canaan has been one of the state’s premier programs, with eight state titles and six straight appearances in championship games, and Marinelli one of the most respected coaches, it would almost seem paradoxical that he would be one of the biggest backers of a rule that is almost universally mocked annually.
Marinelli said he always looks back to the 2000 season, when his team was defeated in the Class M final by Bloomfield, 55-6.
“We had a great group of kids and a great team, and to see them get beaten like that was a little hard for me to take,” Marinelli said. “It’s one reason I’m a little more sensitive to the rule than others. I’ve been on the other side of it.”
Marinelli admitted he has had his players fumble during games to help control scores. When presented with how it is possible to defeat a team by more than 50 points and not run up a score if reserves were used early enough and only basic running plays were called, or how it is possible to run up a score by much less than 50 points by throwing long passes at the end of contests where the outcomes have long been decided, Marinelli acknowledged the difference but said he still thought the policy was a needed safeguard.
“It reminds all of us, all coaches, that you may have a superior team but there is no need to win a game by 72-0 or something like that,” Marinelli said. “You can put your second-teamers in way before it gets close to 50. It is a way to control things before they get out of hand.”
The committee is scheduled to hold its next meeting in April and Marinelli said it is possible the subject could be revisited.
“We will see what happens,” he said. “I might be in the minority but I think it’s a good rule and it has worked to keep scores down.”
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