Naugatuck Valley League president Tom Pompei confirmed Monday afternoon that last week there were initial talks held about the possibility of Warren Harding, Bridgeport Central and Bassick leaving the FCIAC to join his conference.
“There’s been no application, we had a conversation with them,” said Pompei, who is the athletic director at Naugatuck High School. “They just wanted to have an initial conversation about the league. It was brief and didn’t go very far.”
Pompei declined to make any further comment about the situation, but Neil Kavey, the city-wide director of athletics for Bridgeport, who oversees the three schools’ athletic departments, said there was a meeting that involved himself, the Harding, Central and Bassick athletic directors, as well as officials from the NVL, including Pompei.
“The key word is preliminary,” Kavey said. “There were no formal offers, nothing on the table. Their group of athletic directors are going to have to look it over and see if there’s any merit going forward.”
While Kavey would not say so directly, it was implied that if the NVL extended the offer, the three Bridgeport schools would depart the FCIAC, which they joined in 1993.
“If they think we’re a good fit there, we would be interested in making a proposal,” Kavey said. “We’re still gauging local interest here.”
Kavey said a departure from the FCIAC would stem solely for the chance to be on closer footing with opponents in more sports.
“If this somehow comes to fruition, in no way are we dissatisfied with the league we’re in,” Kavey said. “They couldn’t be nicer to us. We’ve had some spotted success outside of boys basketball, but it has been few and far between. From a competitive standpoint, (the NVL) would be a better fit.”
Kavey said the next move is for NVL officials to meet and decide whether to further pursue a relationship with the three schools. Kavey said there is currently no time frame for moving forward, or for when the three schools would relocate if a deal happens.
John Kuczo, the FCIAC’s executive secretary, declined to comment.
There is a lot to digest here, though after some consideration the move makes sense on a lot of fronts.
The knee-jerk reactions: the FCIAC would be left with 16 schools, thus solving a multitude of scheduling problems, particularly in football, which has been forced to use a point system as a basis for its standings and had one team each week needing to search for non-league games. Schools like Staples and Greenwich played only nine regular season games this season, one less that most teams. The league could have two eight-team divisions and also allow the three Stamford schools to play each other every season.
It would also provide a solution in most other sports, where one team has had a bye because of the odd number of members.
On the negative side, the FCIAC would be losing three schools that are traditional boys basketball powers. It would be a sacrifice the league would be willing to make.
From the NVL’s standpoint, it would turn boys basketball into a mega-conference, easily the best in the state.
For the Bridgeport schools, they would now have the opportunity to be more competitive in some sports than they have been in the FCIAC. From a proximity standpoint, the move might not make perfect sense, but the positives outweigh the negatives.
One big proponent of realignment is Derrick Lewis, the football coach and dean of students at Bassick.
“I would be in favor,” Lewis said. “I think everyone hasn’t looked at other sports. It would boost school morale, especially in girls sports. Thank God for boys basketball. Others in the building like myself are trying to find a situation not only to be competitive but also to get kids involved in sports.”
Lewis said he is under no illusions that Bassick and the two other schools would suddenly become athletic powers.
“You ask guys roaming the halls about playing football and they look at you and say, “I’m not playing football, you guys suck,’ ” Lewis said. “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our teeth kicked in, but if you look at the demographics, we are an inner city school. We are the ugly ducklings of the FCIAC. We don’t have the academics. We want to make our own tradition, but we have to level the playing field.”