Athletes in the Schenectady school district will be making some new friends beginning next school year.
Schenectady, along with former Big 10 rivals Albany, Troy and CBA, have been put into the Grey Division in the Suburban Council’s new two-division, 16-team alignment.
“I like the fact that we’ll be able to keep our rivalries with the other Big 10 teams, and I also like being in a division with two nearby schools like Burnt Hills and Mohonasen,” said Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton. “It’s going to create some great new rivalries, and let us maintain relationships we’ve had for years with other schools.”
Averill Park and Ballston Spa will be the other two members of the eight-team Grey Division, as the league put together four teams from each of the existing North and South Divisions into one of the eight-team groups.
Bethlehem, Colonie, Columbia and Guilderland — all currently in the SC South — join Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs, Shaker and Shenendehowa in the new Blue Division.
The move puts teams from the Schenectady and Albany — the second- and third-largest school districts in Section II — in with four Class A schools, one of the smallest AA schools and all male CBA.
“I think it make the most sense,” said first-year Mohonasen athletic director Matt Stein, who attended Shenendehowa and coached at Colonie prior coming to the Rotterdam school this year. “This kept the four Class A teams — us, Burnt Hills, Averill Park and Troy — together.
“I think it’s a good balance. Schenectady and Albany are AA schools, but I think the feeling is that this gives them a chance to maybe build up some programs.
“For our kids, it’s a chance to play some different teams.”
For sports with fewer than 17 games, each team will play one game against the other 15 SC schools, with one opportunity for a non-league game.
For sports that have upward of 20 games on their schedules — basketball, baseball and softball — schools with play the other 15 teams once each, leaving up to five open dates to find non-league games.
“We play Niskayuna in several sports now, and athletes from both schools make up the hockey team,” said Boynton. “This will make transportation easier.
“It also allows us to keep the Hilliard Tournament.”
“We haven’t been able to schedule non-league games in sports like soccer, because under the current scheduling, those teams played the maximum games,” said Stein.
Suburban Council president John Rickert is optimistic.
“The administrators really did a good job making this come together,” Rickert said. “Four of the Big 10 teams applied to join the league, and we accepted them as associate members for athletics. Two of them, Albany and Schenectady, have applied for full membership, which is something we’ll look at.
“First and foremost, the Suburban Council is an academic institution, with athletics a part of it. We didn’t want to lose that identity.”
Several factors played into the divisional alignment, which could be tweaked in two years.
“The things we really tried to focus on were tradition, transportation cost, the availability of playing fields and participation at the lower levels,” Rickert said. “I think we were able to address all of those issues. There has been a great deal of cooperation.”
Taking into consideration recent results, the league has created a competition committee, headed by Niskayuna athletic director Larry Gillooley, to address any concerns.
“I’ve had coaches asking me who they would be playing, what division they’d be in, since this process started,” Boynton said. “Now, I can give them answers.”
“This should make for some great competition in a lot of sports,” said Rickert.
“I think it was [Shenendehowa athletic director] Chris Culnan who said to me at one of the meetings that with the addition of the four teams, the Suburban Council will have 48 percent of the athletes playing sports in Section II.”
The divisional alignment for the Suburban Council beginning with the 2015-16 school year. Also included is the schools’ rank in Section II in 2015-2016 BEDS enrollment figures.
Bethlehem (7), Colonie (8), Columbia (11), Guilderland (6), Niskayuna (9), Saratoga Springs (4), Shaker (5), Shenendehowa (1).
Albany (3), Averill Park (17), Ballston Spa (10), Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (15), Christian Brothers Academy (25), Mohonasen (18), Schenectady (2), Troy (12).