The New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s COVID-19 Task Force has more work to do following its most recent recommendations concerning the fall sports season.
“The role of the Task Force that we put together has not changed,” NYSPHSAA executive director and Task Force member Robert Zayas said Friday. “We will continue to examine readily available information and provide guidance and recommendations to our membership and 11 sections.”
Task Force recommendations resulted last week in the NYSPHSAA officers voting to push back the start of the fall sports season from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21, cancel regional and state championship events, and implement a condensed season schedule starting in January 2021 if high school sports remain prohibited throughout 2020 due to COVID-19.
“We need to focus on the academic side before the athletic side,” Zayas said of the change in the fall sport start date. “There are so many issues that need to be worked out. Let them get started first, then slowly implement the athletic side.”
When the Task Force recommended the fall season start date be pushed back, it took into consideration that schools in early September will just be settling into their educational formats — be it in-person, virtual or a mix of both — and the athletic piece would be an additional strain on those schools.
“Most of the school districts have been appreciative of the pause,” Zayas said.
The Task Force has already pored over several potential scenarios and offered some recommendations as to how to conduct sports safely in a 2020 fall season. More concrete recommendations, Zayas said, will be forthcoming if schools get the go-ahead to play.
“Right now, high school athletics are prohibited by state officials,” Zayas said. “Once we find out what we can do, we will move forward with a plan.”
That plan is already in the works.
“I am working on a document right now to try to provide some of those things they [schools] need to consider as they start to get their programs back up,” Zayas said in an interview this week on the Daily Gazette’s Parting Schotts podcast. “A lot of that is contingent and dependent on the department of health and state official guidelines.”
In a proactive move should high school sports be prohibited throughout 2020, NYSPHSAA officials last week OK’d what Zayas described as “Option B,” a Task Force-backed idea which would call for shortened winter, fall and spring seasons to be played out one after another beginning in January.
“The dates are tentative right now, but the template is there for us to utilize,” Zayas said on the podcast. “We have to be willing to revise and amend as information develops.”
Zayas has heard many comments, both pro and con, since the announcement of the potential three-season plan which includes overlaps between each of the seasons.
“It is not perfect, but it wasn’t meant to be perfect,” Zayas said. “It is meant to preserve seasons and give student-athletes an opportunity to play.”
Zayas believes that opportunity will happen.
“I believe we are going to have high school sports in the upcoming school year, but I don’t know when it will be and the extent of participation that we will be able to provide,” Zayas said on the podcast. “As of today we are starting fall sports on Sept. 21 unless something changes, and we will continue to examine that.”
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.