NYSPHSAA pushes back start of winter sports season; football, volleyball still considered fall sports

Schalmont's Austin Redmond takes a shot against Ogdensburg during a March 10 NYSPHSAA Class B boys basketball regional game. Photo by Erica Miller/Staff

Schalmont's Austin Redmond takes a shot against Ogdensburg during a March 10 NYSPHSAA Class B boys basketball regional game. Photo by Erica Miller/Staff

Categories: High School Sports, Sports, The Daily Gazette

LATHAM — The New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s officers voted Monday to delay the start of the winter sports season two weeks from Nov. 16 to Nov. 30, in order to give the delayed fall sports season — currently scheduled to begin Sept. 21 — more time to complete its season without overlapping.

The officers also voted to continue to consider football and volleyball — currently listed as high-risk sports under state guidance — as fall sports, though NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas said during a Zoom conference call with reporters Monday night that individual sections could still opt to move either sport to a different season at their discretion.

Currently, all fall sports except football and volleyball are permitted to begin practice and play Sept. 21. Football and volleyball will be limited to practice only, and Zayas said Monday night that the decision to move forward with competition in those “high-risk” sports will only come with additional guidance from state officials.

“The officers have decided that, for right now, volleyball and football are part of the fall season,” Zayas said.

“Based upon the information and the guidance that we’ve been provided by the state officials, volleyball and football have been labeled as ‘high-risk’ sports by the New York State Department of Health,” he added. “Therefore, they are limited to practice. If anything changes, that decision and that determination would be made by state officials. We as the state high school athletic association do not have the authority to supersede any decisions made by state officials.”

The association also revised the minimum practice requirements for fall sports, raising the minimum number of practices before competition from six to 10 in all sports but football, and from 10 to 12 for football. That decision does not affect golf, which has no minimum practice requirement.

Monday’s decisions also included waiving the seven consecutive day rule as of Oct. 12, and limiting teams in low- and moderate-risk sports to play games within their own league and/or section until Oct. 19.

These moves came about following the fifth meeting of the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force, which examined the guidance issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office last week regarding the restart of interscholastic sports.

NYSPHSAA is set to release a “comprehensive document” on Friday, detailing guidelines for member schools to utilize as they move toward a return to fall sports.

The decision to push back the start date for winter sports was to provide as much wiggle room as possible for sections to complete their fall sports seasons — if they opt to sponsor sports this fall, a decision Zayas reiterated multiple times during the conference call that is up to the individual sections.

“This affords sections the opportunity to have two additional weeks of the fall season, if they so choose to host fall sports in the next few weeks,” Zayas said. “Keep in mind, it is the decision of the section and the school district if they wish to host a sports season this fall.”

Last week, Section VIII (Nassau County) announced its decision to postpone all sports until January 2021. The New York Council of Superintendents also wrote a letter to Cuomo last week, urging the governor to postpone the start of sports until January.

The fall season starts Sept. 21 — no school-sponsored athletic activities may take place before that date — and cannot exceed 15 weeks, though Zayas said exact end dates within that time frame are up to the individual sections, as NYSPHSAA has already canceled regional and state tournament play for fall sports this year.

That same 15-week time frame starting Sept. 21 applies to football and volleyball, even with no firm date set as to when guidance could change that might allow those sports to begin competition.

At this point, Zayas said, a decision to move the “high-risk” sports to a different season would be left to individual sections.

“If an individual section decides to do that, it would be up to them to decide how to fit volleyball and football into a different time period,” Zayas said. “I think some of the concern that I’ve heard expressed is that moving volleyball and football to the spring season could negatively impact spring seasons for those student-athletes that just had their spring season completely canceled after three or four practices in early March [this past spring]. There are an awful lot of concerns about attempting to move specific sports to later in the year.”

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