OLR Research Report

October 17, 2008




By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked several questions about starting a high school football program. The questions and answers are listed below.

How many high school football programs are there in Connecticut?

According to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Association (CIAC), which oversees high school interscholastic athletics in the state, there are currently 142 high school football programs in the state, including public and private high schools.

How were the programs started?

It varies. To serve as an example, we enclose a recent Waterbury Republican article describing two football programs started in 2007 at Oxford High School and Wolcott Regional Technical High School. (“Coaches of First-Year Programs Seeing Progress,” Waterbury Republican American, October 8, 2008).

Canton recently restarted its high school football program. The website Canton High School Football Online has a history of the new program and links to local news articles from 2005 and 2006 that describe how the program was started. We attach several of these articles to this report.

Do they practice on school grounds or elsewhere?

Schools and local school board choose where to practice. Football practices must conform to CIAC's rules (see attached for rules applicable to 2008 football programs).

What do you have to do to get a team going?

See attached Waterbury Republican article and Canton High School football articles.

Whose jurisdiction are they under?

Football programs are under the jurisdiction of local school boards, leagues, and CIAC.

Do they have to have state permission?

No. In Connecticut, local school boards have broad powers including the power to organize athletic programs and decide what sports to compete in (CGS 10-220). Boards have delegated authority over the organization of interscholastic high school athletics to CIAC, a private, nonprofit organization. CIAC regulates high school sports, promulgates eligibility and safety and health rules for teams, and organizes and controls championship games.

CIAC is open to any public or parochial school accredited by the State Department of Education, any private school or academy that serves the community as a public school, and any private school holding associate institutional membership in the Connecticut Association of Schools (CIAC's parent organization). Virtually all public and parochial high schools in Connecticut are dues-paying members of the CIAC. CIAC rules govern interscholastic athletic competition in the high-school sports, including football.

Schools must also comply with the federal civil rights law known as Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in education programs or activities, including athletics. Title IX requires schools to provide equitable treatment and benefits to male and female athletes and seeks to ensure that both sexes have an equal opportunity to participate in school athletics. It does not require that they provide exactly the same athletic program for each sex or spend the precisely the same amount of money on men's and women's teams, however, schools must consider the impact a sport aimed primarily at boys, such as football, has on the equity of their overall athletic programs.

Who decides what league they play in?

Local school boards decide which leagues or conferences teams play in. The state currently has 11 independent high school leagues (see attached list).

For purposes of determining state championships, CIAC divides schools into classes based on the sizes of their student bodies (see attached list). CIAC currently has six classes for football: S, SS, M, MM, L, and LL, with S being the smallest and LL the largest schools. Each class in each sport has its own state championship. The number of teams that qualify for championship tournaments depends on the sport and the school class.

Schools and coaches arrange their own regular season schedules. To help them do so, the state's schools are organized into leagues for different sports. Leagues are organized geographically, not based on the CIAC's size classes. Leagues have their own rules about the number of games each league member must play against other members.

Does a team have to have its own field?


Who pays for the program?

Local school boards typically pay for school athletic programs as part of the local school budget. In addition, teams may have private support, such as booster clubs or sponsors. Districts may also require athletes to pay a fee to participate. Local school boards make decisions regarding financial support for high school athletic teams.