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Darien School Officials React to Latest Turkey Bowl Incident [UPDATE]

Another incident in the Darien-New Canaan sports rivalry, another police investigation, another apology from Darien to New Canaan for bad behavior, more embarrassment.

Update 1:49 p.m., Wednesday:

Rob Trifone, Darien High School's football coach, says that despite the vandalism this year and just before the 2010 Turkey Bowl Game with New Canaan High, he doesn't think the rivalry between the two schools involves more misbehavior than between most other rival high schools.

Trifone, who coached at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk for 26 years before coming to Darien in 2004, said in an interview Wednesday, "The Brien McMahon and Norwalk High rivalry is just as intense if not more."

He said he recalls misbehavior including spray-painted grass and vandalism to goal posts and a press box in that rivalry.

Asked about the extensiveness of the 2010 vandalism at New Canaan High School and the 2008 violence at Terry Connors Rink between Darien and New Canaan spectators, Trifone didn't change his opinion that the Darien-New Canaan situation is no more intense than most other high school rivalries.

In 2008, according to a New York Times article at the time, county sports league officials forbid New Canaan and Darien teams from playing after dark because, they said, there was more mischief, fighting and drinking associated with spectators at those games than elsewhere in the league.

Asked if the situation has changed much since 2008, he said, "I don't think this rivalry has changed or grown or anything."

In any event, Trifone said, his own responsibility is with the 120 members of the Darien High football program. Parents have the responsibility of monitoring their own children, he said. He noted that his own kids are not out on weeknights, and he knows where they are on weekends.

"The Code"

In this football season, he said, he instituted a stricter policy than the one in the Darien High School Student Handbook for any students in the football program who were caught in any substance abuse. The policy, which he calls "the Code," means any student caught with drugs or alcohol (or found to be around others with drugs or alcohol) will be dropped from the program.

Trifone said the policy was instituted as a reaction to the New Canaan High School vandalism of 2010, although it also comes after an incident at a party just before the 2011 Turkey Bowl in which football players were present when teenagers were drinking alcohol. One Darien High School student at the party was severely assaulted by another student, both of whom were in the football program.

But vandalism, fighting and any other misbehavior that isn't abusing alcohol or drugs isn't covered by Trifone's no-tolerance policy, which he calls "the Code."

"[Other] misbehavior, when it takes place, is handled separately," he said.

Trifone says he's still strict about other misbehavior, and when asked what he would do if students are caught vandalizing, for instance, he points out that two years ago he went above and beyond school policy when Darien High football players were caught vandalizing New Canaan High School.

In that case, the players involved were not just suspended for the two weeks called for in the extracurricular activity policy described in the Darien High School student handbook, he said. He also dropped those students from the team for the rest of the football season.

Locker room security

Trifone said the football program he coaches has nothing to do with security for the locker rooms of visiting teams, something over which he has no control. "I was hired to coach football, not watch locker rooms," he said.

There have always been thefts from locker rooms, he added.

Relationship with the New Canaan High School coach

Trifone said he has long been friends with Lou Marinelli, the football coach at New Canaan High School, and has coached with Marinelli at football camps and clinics.

After the Turkey Bowl, Trifone said, "I picked up the phone and we talked about the game. [...] Although it has nothing to do with any of our teams, I apologized for the idiotic behavior [of the vandals]. He said, 'Don't worry about it, it has nothing to do with our teams,' and I would've said the same" if the shoe had been on the other foot.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

As Darien Police continue the second criminal investigation in two years into an incident related to the Darien-New Canaan football rivalry surrounding the Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl game, Darien school officials point out that at least it doesn't involve current students.

On Thanksgiving Day, someone or some people went into the locker room at Darien High School that the New Canaan High School team was using and took one players' bag and urinated on another. Two years ago, in 2010, some members of the Darien High School football team extensively vandalized New Canaan High School just before the Turkey Bowl.

Mike Sullivan, athletics director for Darien High School was asked: Does Darien High School have a problem handling its rivalry with New Canaan High School?

"This didn't involve Darien High School students," Sullivan said. "I was very proud of the way all Darien sports teams handled themselves this year. Our students have been very well-behaved this past year."

Darien-New Canaan violence

That wasn't always the case in recent years. Four years ago, Darien students at a hockey game with New Canaan got into fights at the Terry Connors Rink in Stamford. Seven boys were arrested.

Although no team members from either side were involved, the New York Times reported, "the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference decided afterward that postseason games between the two schools, no matter what the sport, will no longer be played at night."

The 2008 article continued, "John Kuczo, the executive secretary of the athletic conference, said that there had also been fights between the two schools at other athletics events." Drinking seemed to be involved, and more of it with Darien and New Canaan students than with other schools, he said.

A new matter for the police

A recording from a surveillance video on the day of the latest incident and other unspecified information have been turned over to Darien police who are conducting an investigation, Sullivan said.

Stamford Advocate sports writer Dave Ruden has tweeted that the video shows five people suspected in the incident, none of whom are Darien High School students. At least not now. According to Ruden, Darien High alumni are on the tape.

Sullivan refused to confirm or deny anything about the tape other than that it exists and doesn't raise suspicions about any current students.

Even if Darien High School alumni were involved in the latest Turkey Bowl-related incident, Sullivan said, "these were not Darien High School students, so I don't think it's fair to lump them in. [...] Our students have been very well behaved this past year, so I don't think it's fair to draw that parallel."

Guests and host

Each incident did, however, involve the Darien High School football program, on whose turf the latest incident took place and in which the football players arrested on vandalism charges in 2010 were members.

When a backpack was taken from the locker room the New Canaan High School football team was using and a team equipment bag was vandalized with urine, it occurred when the team was a guest in a Darien High School locker room, specifically a guest of the Darien High School football program.

Both Sullivan and Darien Schools Superintendent Stephen Falcone said that as a result of the latest incident Darien school officials will review how well Darien protects the property of visiting sports teams in the high school locker rooms and try to make sure the visitors' property is secure in the future.

Trifone

DHS Football Coach Rob Trifone didn't return phone messages left for him by Darien Patch on Monday and Tuesday.

Sullivan said he would remind Trifone that Darien Patch would like an interview with him.

Neither Sullivan nor Falcone could say exactly why Trifone had each student in the football program and each student's parents sign an agreement Trifone calls a "Code" relating to student conduct, or exactly what was involved in the Code.

Trifone told the Darien Times that he instituted the Code as a reaction to the 2010 New Canaan High School vandalism incident. The Times quoted Trifone saying, “I ‘upgraded’ the Board of Ed commitment policy which involves a two-week suspension for any violation to a NO tolerance commitment for the football team."

It remains unclear what "violation" refers to or what "NO tolerance" consists of.

In another Darien Times article, Trifone is quoted as saying, "The football Code that the parents and athletes signed simply says that if they break commitment they will be excused from the team for the entire season." The definition of "breaking commitment," according to the article, is "any misbehavior."

Sympathy with New Canaan

Sullivan said he has been in touch with athletic officials at New Canaan High School about the incident and expressed his sympathy in emails, although, when specifically asked, he said he wouldn't characterize any of them as a "letter of apology," a description Ruden used in a tweet.

"I have talked with [New Canaan High School Football Coach] Lou Marinelli and apologized for the actions of very immature community members who may be involved,” Trifone told The Darien Times.

Falcone, a resident of New Canaan, said he too has discussed the incident with New Canaan school officials.

"We have a good, open, working relationship, and as much as we were disappointed with it [the latest incident], they were disappointed with it," Falcone said. "I can say the coaches and the players in New Canaan all responded in a very mature fashion. There was no retaliation of any sort."

Is it worse between New Canaan and Darien?

Falcone said he thinks a surveillance camera has been in place near the Darien High School locker rooms since the building was first opened in 2005. Falcone said he isn't sure whether or not the suspects on the video recording were Darien High School alumni.

Falcone said he also isn't sure whether or not the Darien-New Canaan sports rivalry is nowadays accompanied by more misbehavior than at other schools.

"I know that there are times when I get word that there's inappropriate behavior," he said, "but I haven't followed it enough to know" whether it's worse than elsewhere.

Editor's note: This article originally was published on Wednesday, Nov. 28. The time stamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page of Darien Patch.

Pat Alessi November 28, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Dear Darien Patch; Why is Darien High School continuing to get the bad rap again??? Don't get me wrong. These incident should not be taken lightly but my kids, as well as I, went to this school and have seen what really goes on and New Canaan destruction is NEVER mentioned. My daughter graduated 2006. She remembers New Canaan coming over the summer before the new school opened in August, 2005. They painted railings and door handles red. Spray painted red "NC" on the sidewalks. Threw rocks through windows. This was never mentioned in the papers. My daughter also mentioned how in her earlier years the NC Hockey team came over and caused damage to Darien High School. In both incidents Darien High never made an issue and cleaned the damage up themselves. Out of Darien Taxpayers's pockets. My son graduated 2011. He remembers the NC baseball team coming over and spray painting red "NC" on the new turf baseball field and dugouts. AGAIN, nothing ever mentioned. Seems to me that Darien High School kids (current or graduated) are only retaliating to protect their school. Maybe if the DHS Authorities stood up to NCHS and pressed charges against the NCHS kids; it would end these rivalry attacks. Pat Alessi pat@cottongrove.com
David Gurliacci (Editor) November 28, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Pat, you say "Darien High never made an issue" of the vandalism. My understanding is that New Canaan officials aren't making an issue out of this vandalism and that Darien officials say they are doing all they can to find the culprits. In the New Canaan High School vandalism of 2010 (much more extensive than most vandalism incidents), involved Darien High football players were thrown off the team for the rest of the year and vandals were arrested. From what I've seen, the courts around here tend to sentence teenage vandals to labor like cleaning up vandalism as well as full restitution to make taxpayers whole. What strikes me in talking to Darien officials is that they say they're concerned that this incident will take away from the enjoyment of the game. Is saying "only retaliating" and mentioning past wrongs going to make future vandalism more likely or less likely?
Pat Alessi November 28, 2012 at 06:12 PM
David; When I said "Darien High never made an issue", I was talking about the vandalism that was caused to Darien High School those few times when my kids were in school there. As for the 2010 incident, NCHS pushed the envelope for all the punishment. Which don't get me wrong there should have been punishment. But I know for a fact firsthand that one of the Mothers wanted to bring the 5 boys over to NCHS to have them clean up the spray paint themselves while that Mother looked on to supervise. She was denied by DHS Officials, Darien Police, New Canaan Police, and NCHS Officials. Instead each boy got the max - 5 day full school suspension, $1,500 restitiution to NCHS for the clean up, kicked off the football team, denied any Varsity letter, denied participation in the football dinner, Arrested, Court fees, Attorney fees, Community Service hours, and that's just what I am aware of. Well, I feel that "it would end these rivalry attacks" would have the close mean of "less likely". I would hope that it the NC Police and D Police would make the arrest of any vandalism from either side, these kids would be less likely or even eliminate any future vandalism to avoid the strict consquences like the boys of the 2010 football team. All in all, I just wanted to share this because the discipline between the two towns seems to only be one side whereas the punishment is only applied to DHS vandals and not to the NCHS vandals. Lets be fair School/Town Officials Pat
Shredder November 28, 2012 at 06:30 PM
You're really going to suggest that New Canaan spray painted the baseball turf and nothing was done about it? Do you have any evidence of this?
Glasshouse November 28, 2012 at 06:47 PM
What happened to the 2010 kids who painted the D at NC was indeed overkill. Everyone would have been better served if they had been allowed to publicly apologize and clean it up themselves as they had pleaded. Instead the the New Canaan were told by the NC board of ed to draw it out and push their punishment to the maximum...which they did...everyone did. The salacious media enjoyed the long drawn out scandal and everyone had a good 'ol time drawing and quartering the kids involved as well as their families. I just can't imagine what will happen to the kids who were involved in this latest stupid incident when their names are released.
David Gurliacci (Editor) November 28, 2012 at 07:05 PM
According to Patch's article about the 2010 vandalism case, Mark Sherman, attorney for two of the kids, said: "This was a serious case, so it was expected we'd have to deal with the town of New Canaan, the courts and the school board." http://darien.patch.com/articles/players-in-turkey-bowl-graffiti-case-make-restitution He seems to be referring to an "expected" norm from the New Canaan Board of Education, who would want to make their taxpayers whole. Are you saying that the Darien Board of Education didn't do that with vandals who were caught? I can ask them about that.
sebastian dangerfield November 29, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Four Jacks is a person who made excuses for a New canaan high school student killing a jogger , while texting, yet finds spray paint and peeing on a bad to be heinous--just to put this person's perspective, in perspective. (totally out of it). Just one quick comment-- One has to laugh at this : "In 2008, according to a New York Times article at the time, county sports league officials forbid New Canaan and Darien teams from playing after dark because, they said, there was more mischief, fighting and drinking associated with spectators at those games than elsewhere in the league" David --did you really need to reference the New York Times to ascertain that fact? Or is this just some cheap trick , to try to underscore the 'seriousness' of this incident. Why is it so important to you , to malign the football program? Here is one question for David: OJ Simpson played for USC and for the Bills. Which team do you blame for OJ's actions , with respect to the his crimes over the last 20 years? USC or Buffalo? In 2008 Plaxico Burress shot himself in a bar. At the time he was a New York Giant, but had played for the Steelers and Michigan State. The incident happened after a game away from the stadium (just like the Darien 'fight' last year, with the exception that no DHS football player was arrested). Which team is responsible for Plaxico? MSU, the Steelers or the Giants? Should be 1 as the team is always at fault for the players' actions.
sebastian dangerfield November 29, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Four Jacks 11:31 pm on Sunday, July 1, 2012 It's disgusting when painted on a scoreboard, but since you're from Darien, you wouldn't know that. Furthermore, I AGREE with all of Lisa's comments. You Steffi, are just another Darien pig. Four Jacks 7:54 am on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 Darien, keep your drunken kids in your own town. Stop joy riding around New Canaan where you don't even know what a stop sign is. What is a 17-year-old doing driving around 7 others in a suburban. Four Jacks 7:52 am on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 this is ridiculous, they should all receive the strongest possible punishment, the people in the mini-cooper could have been killed, and that could have been my famiy in that car! Darien, keep your drunken kids at home!!!!!! Four Jacks 3:25 pm on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 How about the allegedly drunk teenagers that ran a stop sign and hit a car on rte 123 last Friday night? No coverage of that? Darien, keep your drunk teens at home! On the article Teen Accused of Striking, Killing Jogger Will Be Tried As An Adult Four Jacks 7:14 am on Thursday, May 17, 2012 runners and bikers need to assume that running on a busy road is dangerous. Let's say her tire had a blow-out and she lost control, the runner still would have been killed. We need to be aware of our surroundings, not run with earbuds in, not run/walk with our backs to traffic. Do not put the entire responsibility on the driver.
sebastian dangerfield November 29, 2012 at 06:41 AM
So just that we are aware-- If you drive in New Canaan and are from Darien--"Keep your drunk kids home". If you are from New Canaan and jog in Norwalk- being killed is basically your fault--as you run with earbuds. This New canaan driver "is not entirely responsible." Hmmm--yeah this is a pretty balanced person, who decides right and wrong, based on the zip code you reside in. Wonder if a drunk kid from darien kills a new canaan jogger--would we get the same "not entirely responsible " line of reasoning? Four Jacks ---you are New Canaan...and this is what the people on this thread are talking about!! Why aren't people like you highlighted?
Ali Abdulah November 29, 2012 at 02:12 PM
thanks luca, perhaps your extensive research and legal brilliance can keep this thread alive well into 2013. Darien owes you a ton of gratitude for your community involvement.
Deacon November 29, 2012 at 03:19 PM
If this had been any other game, would this even be a story? And we can all agree that it was an incredibly immature act, but should it even be a police matter? Sounds like some sensationalism to me
David Gurliacci (Editor) November 29, 2012 at 03:58 PM
It festers. In the past, there have been fights and arrests associated with this school rivalry, so the clear potential for later harm makes each incident more newsworthy than it otherwise would be. So I give it more attention.
Darien Taxpayer November 29, 2012 at 06:53 PM
There is an unmistakable pattern here related to the football program, its players, fans and the repugnant behavior it consistently attracts. It is undeniable and the long list of excuses doesn't change the fact that if it can be this bad during the daytime, how much damage and mayhem can Darien homeowners expect if night games were ever permitted?
sebastian dangerfield November 29, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Darien taxpayer says there is an unmistakable pattern--and it's undeniable. Ok. Here is my list. 1) DHS football players spray painted some stuff on NC high school property. 2) that is it. Unless you want to say that drinking at a party is a pattern, unique to darien, dairen football program, or its fans. Im guessing kids from lots of schools in fairfield county , ct, and the USA drink....so its a pretty lame connection. What other incidents fall in your pattern? 1 thing? or 2 ? Obviously you are a neighbor, looking to vilify a collection of students, in order to achieve a selfish agenda. To me, that's pretty low. Maybe you can go after the special needs kids as well, who were not involved in this incident, if it helps your perceived property values? Why not--you seem very willing to blame the players who were on the field.
Shredder November 29, 2012 at 08:32 PM
There is an unmistakable pattern that high school kids drink. It's part of high school and if you find it reprehensible, you're an idiot. To think that Darien football has some unique endemic of misbehavior is ridiculous and you should be ashamed. Statistically speaking, if you'd take a random sample of DHS football players and compare them to a random sampling of DHS students completely removed from the athletics, I think you'd be overwhelmingly more pleased with the character of the former group. Football programs, especially Darien's, breed hard work and camaraderie, and to discount this because its not a panacea is asinine.
Shredder November 29, 2012 at 08:35 PM
And speaking of reprehensibility, disguising your stadium-light-NIMBYism by grossly distorting the magnitude of student-athlete misbehavior is outrageous.
David Gurliacci (Editor) November 29, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Thank you everyone for your comments. Commenting is now closed.
Ali Abdulah November 29, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Absolutely Correct DT. The Darien Times editorial was also spot on regarding the disgusting behavior, it is NOT kids being kids. And some of those attendees, rumored to be Darien High School alumni, well into adulthood, behaved very badly. What kind of mind-set could motivate these few bad apples to find it acceptable to not only steal equipment from New Canaan football players, but to urinate on it? More than one of these alleged “pranksters” urinated on a New Canaan player’s belongings. Some might say the media sensationalized the story — but an act like this deserves no less than public shaming. The level of disrespect is not only disgusting, it is also degrading — to themselves, to this victimized New Canaan player, and to the town of Darien as a whole. There is only so much the schools, the athletic program, town officials, and the Darien Police Department, on duty at the Turkey Bowl, can do to prevent this type of behavior. At some point, the community needs to look at itself and make a commitment that this type of entitled, disrespectful, immature and illegal behavior needs to stop. This includes examining the culture of drinking and tail-gating at the Turkey Bowl — which some have described as excessive, and could contribute to a lack of self-control. Darien will come to be defined by this behavior — if it hasn’t already.
Pat Alessi November 30, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Thank you Shredder. And yes, I do have evidence as to New Canaan damaging DHS property. Thank you David.

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