New England Roundup: Rhode Island

Commencing with the 2011 fall sports season, any coach who emulates Bobby Knight on a bad day over the course of a season and “verbally abuses” an official in a “public forum” will be subject to more than a technical foul, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty or a bench minor.

Rhode IslandThe Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s Principals Committee on Athletics adopted a new policy at its June meeting that will give coaches reasons to think twice before launching into a tirade – specifically in the presence of media.

For example:

  • A coach will be disqualified for one game and his school fined $100 for a first offense.

  • A second offense will result in a two-game disqualification and a $150 fine for the school.

  • If a coach is found guilty of a third offense, he or she will be disqualified for the remainder of the season and the school fined $250. In this case, if the season ends prior to its completion, the coach will be disqualified for a minimum five games and the remaining games will carry over to the following season.

As a means of explanation, disqualification means a coach may not be in attendance for any game or games while serving the suspension – and may not participate in any pre-game warm-ups at the game site.

While coaches will have the opportunity to raise “officiating concerns” through the school’s director of athletics and principal, they will not be entitled to an appeal.


When the Interscholastic League last season adopted an open tournament which allowed every boys’ basketball team to compete for the state championship (which made Rhode Island one of only two states in the country with this format), it proved to be successful beyond everybody’s wildest dreams.

The league tweaked that format also at its June meeting.

First, it eliminated the three divisional tournaments that have been played for at least 45 years.

Secondly, it adopted a format that will allow as many as 32 teams over Divisions I, II and III to compete for the state championship.

Criteria will be based on a team’s winning percentage which has yet to be determined. But according to a league official who spoke on condition of anonymity, that mark could be as low as 40 percent.

The tournament will consist of five rounds which would allow completion in approximately two weeks.

In the proposal passed by the league, reasons for this new format evolved around a season that was considered too long (i.e. more often than not; the end of tournament play coincided with the start of spring sports practices) and the tournament invariably conflicted with mid-semester exams

In addition, fewer three-game weeks would pop up on schedules and coaches would have more time for teaching in practices.


Boys’ hockey has long been the proverbial elephant in the room (or rink) because of the private school vs. public school issue.

In an attempt to address this contentious issue, the league adopted a format commencing with next season for Division I.

Division I will be split into two leagues: the Cimini League which will consist of private schools like perennial state champion Mount St. Charles, Hendricken, La Salle and Moses Brown, and the Eccleston League which will consist of Cranston West, Smithfield, Burrillville, Lincoln, Barrington and North Kingstown – each of which is a public school.

Cimini League teams will play each other four times and cross over once while Eccleston League teams will play each other three times and cross over once.

A power rating formula will be used to rank and seed teams for the playoffs, with the top four teams qualifying for the state championship and the next four teams qualifying for the Division I Tournament championship.

For example:

  • A win against a Cimini team will earn a team two points.

  • If two Cimini teams tie, each earns one point.

  • A win against an Eccelston team will earn a team two points.

  • If two Eccelston teams tie, each earns one point.

One reason for this change – although league officials were reluctant to go on the record – was that last season private schools posted a combined 55-0-1 record versus public schools.


The league also adopted a cap on the number of games boys’ hockey teams can play which, at face value, was a result of the imbalance between private and public school team records.

The number of overall games a team can play has been reduced from 24 to 22.

“Essentially, when the committee originally approved 24 games, it was at the request of one school which requested it remain anonymous,” said RIIL Executive Director Tom Mezzanotte. “We wanted to bring it in line with the other sports. There isn’t a reason to play 24 games.

“From the survey we sent out, we found 22 was a good number. The issue was we felt that some schools, by playing to the cap, had an advantage over schools that only could play the regular-season games. That was an issue with a number of our schools.

“We felt that by eliminating the number of games beyond the regular season would create a more level playing field.”


The league’s blue book (i.e. rules and regulations) states in Article 7, Section 6, Paragraph D states “A high school coach may not coach prospective members of a high school club, freshman, junior varsity or varsity team during the off-season.”

It would appear Hendricken freshman hockey coach Bob Fairbanks didn’t read that section because he also was coaching a Midget team that included his son plus six other Hawk skaters.

As a result, Hendricken was placed on a three-year probation, fined $800 and head coach Jim Creamer was suspended for a number of games yet to be determined for the 2011-12 season.


The annual Rhode Island-Connecticut Senior Governors’ Cup All-Star Football game ended as have most of the previous games – with Connecticut rolling to a victory, this time by a 37-6 score.

Connecticut now leads the series, 10-3.

Rhode Island’s only points came on field goals of 26 and 49 yards by Cumberland’s Chad Bacon.

St. Raphael’s Trevor Vasey was voted Rhode Island’s Offensive MVP while East Providence’s Dana Andrade (who led his team in tackles and had one sack) was voted the Defensive MVP.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey, plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y. he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.