The state boys’ basketball tournament is leaving its ancestral home off the Northway.
The executive committee of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) voted Friday to move the championships from the Glens Falls Civic Center to the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton starting in 2017.
The championships have been staged at the Glens Falls Civic Center since 1981, and last March it included three title winners from Section II: Shenendehowa, Scotia-Glenville and Lake George.
“It’s an example where history is cast to the wayside for the almighty dollar,” Scotia-Glenville coach Jim Giammattei said. “It’s so disheartening. There’s so much history in that building. It’s the mecca. It’s like the old Boston Garden.”
The 22-member Executive Committee voted 14-8 in favor of Binghamton as the tournament host. The contract will run from 2017-19.
Since the arrival of Executive Director Robert Zayas in the fall of 2012, NYSPHSAA has shown a willingness to move championship events from even iconic venues. The Civic Center has been the association’s longest continuous host for a state championship — 35 years — followed by the Utica Auditorium, which hosted the state hockey tournament for 28 years. That championship is moving to Buffalo in 2016.
Zayas said it was not his intent when he came to New York from New Mexico to start moving tournaments around.
“I’m not pushing history aside, but at the same time ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it’ is a dangerous train of thought,” Zayas said Friday. “It’s all based on the bid.”
Each athletic section of the state was represented by two members, who vote individually, yet each section voted the same way Friday. Sections II (Capital District), VII (Plattsburgh area), IX (Hudson Valley) and X (North Country) voted for Glens Falls, while Sections I (Westchester County), III (Central New York), IV (Southern Tier), V (Rochester area), VI (Western New York), VIII (Nassau County) and XI (Suffolk County) voted for Binghamton.
“You’re talking about 35 years at Glens Falls, and a tradition has been established,” Shenendehowa boys’ basketball coach Tony Dzikas said. “I’m not sure what the process is. There had to be some reasons.”
A big one: Money.
Glens Falls’ bid included a facility rental of $12,500, with an anticipated $25,000 in bed tax revenue awarded on an annual basis for promotion and additional expenses. Binghamton’s bid had a facility rental of $0, with an additional $30,000 annual pledge to be used for tournament expenses.
“It is about dollars and cents,” NYSPHSAA boys’ basketball Chairman Bill Higgins said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow. There are a lot of disappointed people. Glens Falls is a proven commodity. It’s never failed. They’re confident Binghamton is going to be a success financially. They’ve got to prove it.”
Last week Glens Falls and Binghamton both received a nod to host the 20-team, three-day showcase by groups representing NYSPHSAA. The NYSPHSAA boys’ basketball committee voted 7-4 in favor of keeping the event at the Civic Center. But NYSPHSAA administrators recommended moving the state tournament semifinals and finals to the downtown Binghamton arena.
The NYSPHSAA championship advisory committee did not make a recommendation.
“Some people did not accept what their [basketball committee] representative recommended,” Higgins said of Section I, VIII and XI. “Basketball people did not make this decision. The executive committee did, and none of them are involved with basketball.”
Dzikas said he wasn’t surprised upon hearing that.
“I’m on the Section II basketball committee,” he said. “Sometimes we want something done and the committee above us says we’re not going to do that. They call that life.”
Following Siena College’s three straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament titles in the late 2000s at the Times Union Center, the conference tourney was moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, after some coaches complained the Saints had an unfair home-court advantage. Some Section II officials wonder if the same thing happened here, although Zayas said that factor never figured into NYSPHSAA’s calibrations.
Scotia-Glenville repeated as a state basketball champion last March. When the Tartans prevailed in 2014, they were joined by Green Tech and Hoosic Valley as top New York teams. Schenectady is among the teams that captured championships in the years before.
“It’s in our backyard,” Dzikas said. “Maybe some people thought it was time to give another section the home-court advantage. Maybe that crossed some minds.”
Section II boys’ basketball tournament semifinals and finals are also held at the Glens Falls Civic Center in all classes but Class AA.
“In conjunction with the dollars, I feel there’s an underlying thing. There’s always a written factor and an unwritten factor,” Giammattei said. “Some think our section teams are used to playing on this court and they have an advantage. The only way to know is to move it.”
Giammattei and Dzikas both gave the Glens Falls Civic Center and its tournament staff a glowing review.
“Our experience at Glens Falls has been nothing but first-class,” Giammattei said. “Top to bottom, you get everything provided for your team — plus the history.”
The New York State Basketball Hall of Fame is located at the Glens Falls Civic Center, and its annual induction ceremony has been staged there during the tournament weekend. Zayas said he does not know if the Hall of Fame will be moved along with the tournament.
Glens Falls, Binghamton and Albany made bids to host the event in September before the Boys’ Basketball Committee. The committee voted 8-3 in favor of Glens Falls (Albany received no votes), and according to Higgins, the NYSPHSAA administrators and NYSPHSAA championship advisory committee approved Glens Falls afterward.
However, in October, the NYSPHSAA executive committee defeated a motion to consider approving the Civic Center bid. The denial came after questions arose whether the current NYSPHSAA bidding process was proper, since it allowed proposals to be altered. Glens Falls had lowered its total bid between a written bid and a final oral presentation given to the basketball committee and NYSPHSAA staff, according to Higgins. NYSPHSAA went to a sealed bid process.
In the next round, Binghamton’s bid included the rental cost for the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. Albany did not resubmit a bid to host the event at the Times Union Center. A third bid reviewed came from the OnCenter in Syracuse.
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