The Section II athletic landscape is about to change.
At least four leagues will have a different look beginning next fall, the result of a process that began when Big 10 member Amsterdam and Schuylerville of the Wasaren League petitioned to join the Foothills Council.
Requiring a two-thirds majority approval from the eight Foothills member schools, the proposal has already gotten the OK from all six boards of education that have taken up the issue.
Mechanicville became the latest school to switch leagues, its school board voting Thursday to move from the Colonial Council to the Wasaren League, most likely leaving the Colonial to find another member.
None of the moves will affect football, which went to a classification format in 2004.
But all the movement has athletic directors scrambling to complete their fall schedules, which have to be sent to the various sports’ officials assignors by late April.
And it could eventually lead to the end of one of the two large-school leagues in Section II,
Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton doesn’t like what he sees when he looks at the future of the Big 10, now down to eight schools, two of which are all-male institutions.
“It might be time,” said Boynton of the possibility of the league dissolving. “I know people like their rivalries, but the times are changing. With Amsterdam leaving, it’s going to be a challenge to get all of our athletes and all of our teams their allottment of games.”
Amsterdam was denied admission to the Foothills Council in a previous petition, the league schools splitting their six votes. The stumbling block was the league not wanting to have an odd number of schools.
A 10-team league was more palatable, but has left Big 10 schools with holes in their schedules.
Boynton, who oversees the athletic department of the second-largest school district in Section II, now must try to fill schedules for some 40 sports at the varsity, junior varsity, freshman and modified levels.
“We’re a dues-paying member of Section II, and our student-athletes have as much right to the allowed number of games as the other schools,” said Boynton. “The problem we have is that other leagues are locked into their schedules and have little, if any, room for non-league games.”
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, the smallest of the remaining Big 10 schools, has had problems fielding teams, especially at the JV and lower levels. The Golden Knights did not field a varsity boys’ or girls’ soccer team last fall.
“I’m not sure yet how everything will play out,” said Pat Moran, who oversees the athletic program at the Schenectady parochial school. “The worst-case scenario is that we would have openings for more non-league games.”
As for leaving the Big 10, Moran said that option has been explored, but didn’t receive much positive feedback.
“That’s always something that comes up, and it has its pluses and minuses,” Moran said. “If you leave, you need to have somewhere to go. We haven’t had a lot of welcoming offers.”
The Foothills Council seems to have made out best in the game of musical chairs by getting the jump on the other leagues.
“It’s not official, but everyone expects to be playing Amsterdam and Schuylerville beginning in the fall,” said Gloversville AD Mike DeMagistris.
“The Foothills Council is a strong athletic and academic league, and this makes it even stronger. Both Amsterdam and Schuylerville mirror the current members in their philosophy, both academically and athletically. That’s what we were looking for.”
The biggest issue to be worked out in the 10-team format is scheduling. The Foothills Council would be split into two divisions, with Schuylerville joining Glens Falls, Queensbury, South Glens Falls and Hudson Falls in a North or East division.
Amsterdam would join Broadalbin-Perth, Gloversville, Johnstown and Scotia-Glenville in a South or West grouping. The most likely league scheduling option for sports with 16 (soccer) or 18 (basketball, baseball, softball) games would be for teams to play twice against divisional rivals and once against each team from the other division.
“A number of the Foothills schools already play both Amsterdam and Schuylerville,” said DeMagistris. “Travel and scheduling is something we’re going to have to work out. I’ve had schools calling me looking for non-league games for next school year, but I’ve had to put them on hold until everything is official.”
That doesn’t help Boynton and the athletes in the Schenectady school district.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s no one’s fault, and I’m not pointing a finger. Amsterdam did what they felt they needed to do, and I have no problem with that.”
Schenectady hasn’t fielded a freshman boys’ basketball team for four years, and head coach Eric Loudis can sympathize with his AD.
“We don’t want to lose two games,” he said. “And with budgets being what they are these days, it’s tough to get the OK to travel any distance.
“We may have to pick up a tournament, but to do that we might have to travel outside of the section.”
Green Tech, which won the Section II Class AA boys’ basketball title earlier last week, could be joining the Big 10, but that school’s athletic offerings are nowhere near those of the longstanding Big 10 schools.
“They’re an all-boys’ school, and right now, they don’t offer as many sports, and not at all levels,” said Boynton.
Green Tech would be the third all-male institution in the Big 10. That wouldn’t help the girls’ athletic programs.
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons has not fielded a girls’ soccer team for a number of years, and Bishop Maginn has never offered the sport at the varsity level, leaving just Albany, Catholic Central, Schenectady and Troy to play a league schedule.
“We did that before, with everyone playing each other three times, but that was with Amsterdam,” said Boynton. “You don’t want to keep playing the same teams over and over.”
The Schenectady girls’ soccer team played home-and-home non-league games last fall against Lake George, a Class C school more than an hour away by school bus.
Loudis, a Syracuse University basketball fan, likens his league to the Big East.
“I’m still getting used to seeing the ACC logo on the Carrier Dome floor,” he said. “It was the Big East for so long, and it was a strong league. But times change.”
“It might be time to form some type of super league, with the remaining Big 10 schools and the Suburban Council schools,” said Boynton. “But I would understand if the Suburban schools were opposed to that.
“But the time may come that that might be the best option, especially for the three remaining city schools — us, Albany and Troy.”