State to add sixth classification for 2023-24 school year in some sports

Schenectady's Kenyatu Graham, right, looks to hold off Shenendehowa's Luke McAuliffe under the basket during a free throw in a Jan. 4 Suburban Council boys' basketball game at Schenectady High School.
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Schenectady's Kenyatu Graham, right, looks to hold off Shenendehowa's Luke McAuliffe under the basket during a free throw in a Jan. 4 Suburban Council boys' basketball game at Schenectady High School.

Following the 99th meeting of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Central Committee, there will be an additional class of competition for high schools in the state.

“The additional class will provide more opportunity for student-athletes, and schools to participate in and potentially be a sectional champion and NYSPHSAA state champion. The increased opportunity is a very good thing,” Section II Executive Director Ed Dopp said.

Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, the state will add a sixth classification — Class AAA — for the sports of boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, baseball, softball and girls’ volleyball. Class AAA joins the existing classes of AA, A, B, C and D.

Representatives of the state’s 11 sections approved move on Wednesday.

“Overall, I think it’s a positive because it gives another opportunity to win a championship,” Gloversville athletic director Mike DeMagistris said.

In addition to a sixth state championship team, the move will also create an additional sectional champion.

Dopp said he’s expecting some challenges along the way.

“There will be some logistical and financial challenges with the increased tournament size [facilities, scheduling, etc.], but our sport committees will plan for those challenges and we will work through them,” Dopp said. “In some sports we have already been running a split classification [C/CC], which equates to a sixth sectional champion. Now, the classifications will be determined by the NYSPHSAA cutoff criteria.”

It is the cutoff points that are creating some concerns. As it stands, Section II would have just seven teams at the Class AAA level.

In addition to competing in new classes, some schools might be competing in different classes in different sports.

“The numbers are based on the number of schools participating in a given sport,” DeMagistris said. “So there might be some instances where schools are one class in one sport and another class in another sport.”

That’s a prospect that concerns some.

“For the schools, I’ll call the bubble schools, the ones that will be at the bottom of the class by the BEDS numbers, it will make it tougher for them as they will play bigger schools come sectional time,” said Hoosick Falls athletic director Tom Husser, who also is the Wasaren League president and Section II girls’ soccer chairman. “It will be more work for the Sport Coordinators as they will have another Class to find a host location and do a schedule and volunteers to work. I haven’t really analyzed it, but we might have just a few Class AAA schools and some of them are not competitive all sports, so it will be great for one or two of those AAA schools as they will win the section forever. In my sport [girls’ soccer], it might be Shenendehowa and Shaker in the Finals every year. But say in Class C or B we could have 25 or so schools in a class.

“The bottom line is that there is really not a great way to break it up, so I guess we shall see.”

“It’s a tough one,” Broadalbin-Perth athletic director Tucker Gifford said. “It’s an opportunity for the bigger schools with the addition of the AAA class, but for Section II, it’s adding an additional class for just seven AAA schools. You can’t even get a bracket with full quarterfinals, so I don’t think it makes much sense.”

Section II is already looking into ways to add additional postseason games for the Class AAA schools.

“I’m on the baseball committee, and we’re looking at ways to give them more games in the postseason, whether it’s double-elimination or a series of some sort in the semifinals or finals,” DeMagistris said.

Just what the numbers breakdown will be has yet to be determined.

“It will be very interesting to see how the new classifications breakdown. We will not know that for a while. There is a criteria that plans for the largest 75 schools in the state to determine the top class, the smallest 100 schools will make up the bottom class and the remaining schools will be evenly distributed in the remaining four classes,” Dopp said. “This begins with enrollment numbers, but also involves each section’s classification process for non-public schools as well as the NYSPHSAA formula for combining schools [merged programs]. How the state number of participating schools will break down for each section will be determined about a year in advance. I anticipate that most classes will have a smaller number of schools in it, just what that number will be and how that will impact the tournament schedule, is yet to be determined.”

Husser said that the six-class format will be a challenge for many schools that fall in between the largest and smallest classifications.

“As for me personally, I was not for it as we are a bubble school and as a sport coordinator, it would be more work to cover the added bracket. I’m not sure what we do if the perfect storm hits and we have a year like 26 Class C schools and 26 Class B schools competing in sectional play,” he said. “There is also discussion to go back to getting the BEDS number by averaging the freshman, sophomore and junior classes instead of the current format of freshman, sophomore and the average of both. If we go back to the three-year class average, I think that will help.”

Gifford agreed, saying that Broadalbin-Perth will be in a similar situation.

“I don’t think it will help divide teams in the middle that fall between Class AAA and Class D,” he said. “We’re one of those tweener schools. We might be the biggest school in Class B, but we also might be the smallest school in Class A depending on the sport. If we’re the smallest in Class A, it doesn’t bode well for us.”

The change to six classes will also mean more work for the sections and their various sport committees as they will need to adjust schedules to accommodate the additional class.

“It will be more work for Section II,” Husser said. “It will most likely be good for the NYSPHSAA in some sports, as they should realize a profit in most of those sports.”

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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