Suburban Council bigger, better than ever

The area’s largest league is now a true behemoth.
The battle for Suburban Council crowns will get more frenetic with the addition of four schools this year to the mega-league.
The battle for Suburban Council crowns will get more frenetic with the addition of four schools this year to the mega-league.

The area’s largest league is now a true behemoth.

That’s the reality for the new-look Suburban Council, which will see the vast majority of its teams open practices Monday, along with the rest of Section II’s member schools. That day will also the first on which teams from Albany, CBA, Schenectady, and Troy start work as members of their new league after a year as independents following the disbanding of the Big 10 Conference.

This year, those four schools join the Suburban Council, pushing the area’s top large-school league roster of teams to 16.

“We’re excited to get going,” said Steve Boynton, Schenectady’s athletic director. “This is going to be fun.”

Veterans of the Suburban Council, such as Niskayuna High School Principal John Rickert and Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan, shared Boynton’s optimistic take on the league’s new look for 2015-16 despite the complications brought about in adding four new schools to the league.

“The obvious issue becomes scheduling,” said Rickert, who serves as the league’s president. “Any time you add four new teams to an existing league that is operating efficiently, it creates a new set of challenges just by sheer volume.”

And, if nothing else, the 16-team version of the Suburban Council is not hurting for eligible bodies for its playing surfaces. The league’s schools now comprise nearly 50 percent of Section II’s entire student body, and the Suburban Council–between both boys’ and girls’ sports, and all levels of teams–have more than 5,500 league games scheduled for the upcoming school year.

“So,” Culnan said, laughing, “it’s a big league.”

Culnan, who leads the way in the Suburban Council when it comes to scheduling, said the league’s athletic directors looked at a few different models to figure out how to best handle schedule-making for a 16-team league. He said the league looked at how large college conferences, such as the Atlantic Coast Conference, handle their schedules for guidance in how to adjust for its enlarged state.

“When the new schools came in, we went back and started everything all over,” Culnan said.

The end result is a two-division format, and league schedules that vary from sport to sport. Some sports, such as soccer, will see league members only play each other once each; others, like basketball, will have schools play everyone once and a couple of rival schools twice; and, in sports with fewer participating schools, such as boys’ volleyball, teams will play each league member twice.

(On the girls’ side, many sports schedules feature one fewer league game because CBA does not field female squads; in those instances, girls’ teams will play an extra non-league contest.)

Going forward, one of the main goals for the league in 2015-16 will be to make its new schools feel like they don’t stick out. The desire, Culnan said, is for the league to become whole right away, not separated along lines of tenure.

“This year,” Culnan said, “that’ll be something we monitor closely, how the schools are interacting, so that these new schools feel welcome in the league.”

At the administrative level, the league’s president said there have been no issues with acclimating the Suburban Council’s newest members.

“Everyone at the table had been comfortable and that’s really important,” Rickert said.

Travel should not be an issue for the league in its new state, either, Rickert said. Before extending invitations to the league’s four new schools, Rickert said it was determined adding the foursome would not increase travel bills in a significant manner.

“None of these new schools are in areas we weren’t already traveling to,” Rickert said.

(The one travel issue? Schenectady’s Boynton said his school’s teams might “have to use Mapquest for Averill Park,” along with a few other new schools it will face on a regular basis.)

Culnan said the conference is confident little will change with how it operates in 2015-16, the only change being some new uniforms and nicknames to get to know.

“We still have our league, our rules, our procedures — we just added four more schools,” Culnan said.

He added: “For these schools to come in and be a part of our league, I think at the end of the day that’s good for us.”

Categories: High School Sports

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