Section II’s athletic leadership has yet to decide if it will allow sports like basketball, wrestling and ice hockey to compete in March and April if they do not get the go-ahead from the New York State Department of Health to compete sometime during the traditional winter sports season.
“The problem is that we’re in limbo,” Columbia athletic director and Suburban Council president Mike Leonard said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t got any answers.”
March 1 through April 30 has been designated as the “Fall Sports Season II” by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. It was created to give fall teams that didn’t play in October and November due to COVID-19 concerns an opportunity to do so, and the NYSPHSAA administration has said winter teams can play in that gap season, too, at the discretion of the individual sections.
“The 11 sections are all over the board with what they want to do [in the “Fall Sports Season II”],” Section II Executive Director Ed Dopp said. “We will do what we believe is in the best interest of our 97 member schools. We cannot cater to one or two schools, or one or two leagues.”
Basketball, wrestling, ice hockey, competitive cheerleading and boys’ volleyball are the winter sports classified by the state DOH as “high” risk because of their potential to spread COVID-19, and they are currently on pause to play until the state DOH says they can. “Low” risk and “moderate” risk winter sports have been given the go-ahead to compete, but safety precautions are at the forefront, with the Suburban Council, for example, contesting its bowling matches and boys’ swimming and diving meets virtually — with teams competing at separate venues — through at least Jan. 31.
The “high” risk category also includes the fall sports of football, boys’ and girls’ volleyball, and field hockey. There is the possibility that the “high” risk sports will still be on pause at the time of the “Fall Sports Season II.” What would happen with those sports then is also uncertain.
“Let’s say we get [state DOH] approval,” Dopp said. “I don’t want to put ‘high’ risk winter sports and ‘high’ risk fall sports in the same season. I don’t think that will be in the section’s best interest.”
According to a portion of a Section II press release that came out Nov. 13, “With the Fall 2 Season running from March 1st through April 30th, and Spring Sports running from May 1st through June 30th, it is likely that winter sports if postponed will not have additional opportunities.”
“That stands right now, but it is subject to change,” Dopp said. “The bottom line is we have committed to Fall II with the understanding that we will play the ‘high’ risk fall sports there if they are approved.”
The Section II “Fall Sports Season II” is going to be very busy as it is, with many schools that didn’t play their “low” risk and “moderate” risk sports in the fall making plans to compete in that two-month gap. If the “high” risk fall sports are approved by the state DOH sometime before March 1, some schools will certainly want to play them, too.
Adding “high” risk winter sports to that mix could potentially create a number of practice, travel, coaching and student participation dilemmas.
“Our membership has made it clear to us that combining seasons would be a detriment,” Dopp said. “We don’t want to mingle seasons.”
That is not a unanimous call.
“I think we’ve got to be flexible,” Leonard said. “I want to do everything I can to get all of the sports in for all of the kids. The question is how do we best fit it in?”