• History of the ECC

  • THE BEGINNING
    The Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) began operations in the 1934-35 school year as a six school alliance made up of Bulkeley High School (New London), Chapman Tech (New London), Fitch High School, Norwich Free Academy, Stonington High School and Windham High School. The six schools competed in the five varsity sports of football, basketball, baseball, cross country and track. Previously, the schools were members of the Eastern Connecticut-Western Rhode Island League which folded when Westerly High School withdrew to focus on competition within their own State. ​

    Bill O’Brien, Jack Conway, Mike Cronin, Tom Callaghan, Morris Fabricant, George Butcher, Howie Dickenman and Eddie Collins are generally considered to have shared the initial architecture and early development of the league. O’Brien (Bulkeley), Conway (Chapman Tech), Callaghan (Windham), Cronin (Stonington) and Collins (Fitch) were there at the start with Fabricant (Stonington), Dickenman (Norwich Free Academy) and Butcher (Fitch) arriving a few years later. All of the founding fathers were coaches who handled multiple sports and also served as Directors of Athletics at their respective schools. All of them are elected members of the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, with the exception of Cronin, whose biography, nevertheless, offers rather strong credentials.
     
    ​GROWTH
    Since its beginning as a six school, five sport conference, the ECC has gone through many membership changes seeing it grow to include 19 schools at its largest. Initially, new members resulted from the establishment of new high schools in the area including Waterford, Ledyard, Montville, East Lyme, St. Bernard, and New London which absorbed the closing of Bulkeley and Chapman Tech. The league looked north of Norwich for the first time as well when it added Killingly High School. In 2000 the ECC once again went through a major change when it merged with several schools from the Quinebaug Valley Conference adding Griswold High School, Marianapolis Prep School, Plainfield High School, Putnam High School, Tourtellotte Memorial High School and Woodstock Academy. Shortly thereafter Windham High School rejoined the league along with new additions Bacon Academy, Lyman Memorial High School and Wheeler High School.
     
    TODAY
    ​Currently the ECC is made up of 18 member high schools, whose geographical footprint reaches from the Massachusetts border to the Long Island Sound and from the Rhode Island border to just east of the Connecticut River. The league currently sponsors 26 varsity sports, with each culminating in a league championship. The league also sponsors and hosts Unified Sports tournaments in each of the three athletic seasons.

    ​Presently, the ECC is one of ten interscholastic leagues in the CIAC. The pinnacle of success for any school in any sport is winning a CIAC State Championship. Overall through the years, ECC teams have represented the league well at the state level with overwhelming success in the sports of baseball, girl’s basketball, girl’s outdoor track, wrestling and cross country.
     
    FUN FACTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
    Only in the ECC will you find Griswold in Jewett City, Killingly in Dayville, Montville in Oakdale, Plainfield in Central Village Stonington in Pawcatuck and Windham in Willimantic.
     
    NFA and New London share the distinction of having competed in the nation’s first high school football game in 1875 giving it the distinction of being the oldest high school football rivalry in America.
     
    Stonington has played Westerly over 150 times in football including its 100th Thanksgiving Day game with their rival in 2011, making it the longest running turkey day rivalry in America.
     
    In 1935 Stonington administrators adopted a policy to ban faculty members from coaching varsity sports. The following year they dropped the ban and put Mike Cronin in charge of football. Three years later they won a State Championship.
     
    William “Bill” Mignault, Sr. who amassed 321 wins over 50 coaching seasons is the winningest football coach in the state of Connecticut. Coach Mignault compiled 303 victories at Ledyard after previously leading Waterford to 18 wins. Prior to his Head Coaching start with the Lancers, he was an assistant at NFA.
     
    Patterson “Pat” Cannamela (Chapman Tech ‘47) who played baseball and football for the Huskies spent 2 years at Ventura Jr. College before transferring to the University of Southern California where he excelled in football. During the 1951 season, he captained the USC team, was a consensus All-American line-backer, and was named National Defensive Player of the Year by the New York Mirror news. He later played in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. New London High School’s football field, Cannamela Field, bears his name.
     
    Phil Jones (Stonington ‘50), Gene King and Art Quimby (Bulkeley ‘51), and Don Burns and Jim O’Connor (New London ‘53) graduated from their ECC experience to the varsity Basketball Team at the University of Connecticut - five players over a span of only four years.

    ​Johnny Kelly (Bulkeley ‘50) a State X-Country champion, won the Boston Marathon in 1957 setting a new course record. He also managed five 2nd place finishes in the event. He was the marathon winner at the 1959 Pan American Games. Kelly also ran with the U.S. Olympic Marathon team in the 1956 and 1960 summer Olympics held in Melbourne, Australia and Rome, Italy respectively.
     
    Billy Gardner (Chapman Tech ‘46) was a 3 sport star before signing to play professional baseball. After several years in the Minors, Gardner played 10 years in the Majors with the New York Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. He also managed the game for 7 years with the Twins and Kansas City Royals. In 1951, Gardner won a World Series championship ring with the Giants.
     
    Tracy Lis (Killingly ‘88) set the all-time Connecticut High School Basketball scoring record of 3681 points before moving on to the Big East and Providence College where she continued to set scoring standards. At the time of her graduation from PC, Lis was the all-time scoring leader for the Friars and was ranked third all-time in Big East career scoring. In 2004, she was named to the Big East Conference’s Silver Anniversary 15-member All-Star team.
     
    Waterford grad Katie Schoepfer (‘06) is holder of the State career record for soccer scoring (157 goals) and is second with assists (47). Her four year career as a starter for perennial power Penn State is laden with Big Ten, Mid-Atlantic, and NSCAA honors including several for academics. As the team’s scoring leader, Schoepfer helped extend Penn State’s Big Ten dominance to 12 straight championships. Schoepfer was one of five finalists for the 2009 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year Award. She was selected by defending champion Sky Blue FC in the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) draft.
     
    Bob Ross (Fitch ‘50 Basketball/Golf) is well known in the golf world as the Head Professional at the legendary Baltusrol Golf Club, host to 3 U.S. Open Championships. On two occasions, he was honored as the National Club Pro of the Year. Ross competed on the PGA tour including 3 PGA Championships and has earned numerous awards in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area. He is an exceptional teacher of golf and has been honored with a lifetime honorary Baltusrol membership.