Some of the most recognizable names in the vast landscape of sports in the United States got their start in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC). Steve Young, Calvin Murphy, Bobby Valentine and Kristine Lilly are some of the stars whose high school careers began on the playing fields at FCIAC schools.

The league comprises 18 public and private high schools, primarily in lower Fairfield County. It includes some of the wealthiest communities in the country along Connecticut’s Gold Coast and some areas that are far less affluent. The league hosts more than 100 tournament games in sports ranging from football to lacrosse to girls ice hockey.

The conference's schools are Bridgeport Central, Bassick and Warren Harding of Bridgeport; Danbury; Darien; Fairfield Ludlowe; Fairfield Warde; Greenwich; Brien McMahon of Norwalk; New Canaan; Norwalk; Ridgefield; St. Joseph; Stamford; Staples of Westport; Trinity Catholic; Trumbull; Westhill of Stamford; and Wilton.

The league began in 1961 with 12 schools. Its most recent expansion came in the 1990s. It added three Bridgeport high schools in 1992 and St. Joseph joined in 1994. The league is governed by a board of directors that includes principals, coaches and athletic directors, and works with an operating budget of $400,000.

The question of the league’s greatest athlete could spark a fascinating debate. Young, who played at Greenwich, would certainly be in the discussion. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 after a standout career with the San Francisco 49ers. He also excelled at Brigham Young University and drew national attention when he signed a 10-year, $40 million deal with the Los Angeles Express of the United States Football League. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. A 1981 graduate, he also played basketball and baseball.

Murphy, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, starred at Norwalk High School in the mid-1960s, graduating in 1966. Murphy, who was also a world class baton twirler, earned All-State honors three times before heading to Niagara University. He played in the NBA for 13 seasons.

Valentine starred as a football and baseball player at Rippowam in Stamford before graduating in 1967. The school has since closed. Valentine played for the Los Angeles Dodgers before an injury cut short his career. He has managed the Texas Rangers and New York Mets and is currently a television analyst.

Lilly started at Wilton (class of 1989) before joining the U.S. women’s national soccer team as a teenager. She has played more games with the U.S. squad than any other player and has won three Olympic medals.

Some other recognizable athletes who played in the FCIAC include tennis player James Blake, golfers Ken Green and J.J. Henry, soccer players Mickey Kydes and Kyle Martino, women’s basketball player Amanda Pape and baseball players Charles Nagy and Kevin Morton.

Aside from its individual athletes, several of the league's teams have achieved notoriety. The Greenwich boys’ swimming team, under the guidance of coach Terry Lowe, has won 35 straight state championships in its class. Danbury High’s wrestling team has won 10 straight state open titles and enters the 2010-11 season with a 322-match winning streak against league competition. Its last league loss was in 1986 against Greenwich.

The league is also known for its success in boys and girls lacrosse. Former coaches Guy Whitten (Wilton) and Howard Benedict (New Canaan) have been dubbed the “Founding Fathers of Connecticut lacrosse,” and teams from the league are perennial state contenders and earn high rankings in national polls.