N.Y. to delay start of fall sports, cancels state tourneys

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HOOSICK, N.Y. — The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) voted on Thursday to delay the start of the 2020 fall sports season until Sept. 21. Fall sports were originally scheduled to start throughout the state on Aug. 24.

"As the state considers reopening, it is unrealistic to believe athletic seasons can start on August 24th as originally scheduled," said NYSPHSAA President Paul Harrica. "The priority will continue to be on the educational process and a return to learning in the safest way possible."

The decision came as a recommendation from the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force after a meeting Thursday morning.

"This is the most challenging situation we've all seen," said NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas. "The more we come together, the more we can try to find solutions to help students."

Along with pushing the start date back, all regional and state championship events have been canceled.

"We recognize this is challenging for everyone, but the decisions made at the state level are based upon data and statewide infection rates all in an effort to stop the spread of COVID and reopen responsibly," Zayas said in a press release. "At this time, Department of Health guidance presented on July 13 prohibits interscholastic athletics across the state. The association will continue to follow state guidance and will work collectively with State officials to ensure high school athletics will start up responsibly in the future. As an association, we must be willing to be flexible and continue to explore all options with students' safety as our main focus."

Fall sports played at Hoosick and Cambridge include football, cross-country, golf, boys and girls soccer, field hockey and girls volleyball.

"I'm just guessing, but I don't think it will make a difference," said Cambridge football coach Doug Luke. "But I'm hoping [we start on time]. I haven't seen the kids since March."

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In the event that the fall sports season is interrupted by the COVID-19 crisis, such as school closings or the cancellation of high-risk sports, a condensed season plan will be implemented.

"Option B"

In that instance, all high school sports in New York would have a condensed, 10-week season. Winter sports would tentatively begin, as "season one," on Jan. 4 and conclude March 13. Two high-contact winter sports, wrestling and competitive cheer, may have to be moved to either season two or season three according to the NYSPHSAA's press release.

Fall sports would be "season two" and the season would tentatively begin March 1 and conclude May 8. Girls tennis would be moved to season three.

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Season three features spring sports, and under this plan they would tentatively begin April 5 and finish on June 12.

Hoosick Falls athletic director and girls soccer coach Tom Husser said that the overlaps of seasons would make it difficult on everyone. With over a month overlap between season two and season three, there is a likelihood that a multi-sport athlete would have games for both sports, like girls soccer and girls lacrosse or football and baseball, scheduled on the same day.

"We'll tell the athlete, 'Tell me before the season,'" Husser said. "I would rather know right now, I want the coach to know."

Husser said that there will be two deciding factors that will determine if there is a fall sports season in New York this year.

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"Keeping kids safe, and what Governor (Andrew) Cuomo says," Husser said. "Our emotions are to play and say what the heck, but we have to keep our kids safe, too."

NYSPHSAA officers have the ability to adjust seasons with the authority granted within the NYSPHSAA Constitution which states: "Article IV, 2: A committee of officers in consultation with the staff shall have the authority to act on all matters not provided for in this constitution and bylaws, and on such emergency business as may arise between regular meetings of the Executive Committee."

In either mode, games scheduled against out-of-state opponents will still be allowed. Teams like Hoosick Falls and Cambridge will face teams from Vermont and Massachusetts on a regular basis.

"Geographic scheduling is appreciated, but we understand that it might be closer geographically to play teams [in another state]," Zayas said. "You'd always want to consult with the local health officials to make sure it's safe."

Luke said that bigger schools might be more successful in moving seasons around, but smaller schools like Cambridge and Hoosick Falls would be more difficult.

"We have a limited number of kids going out for sports and a lot of kids playing three sports," Luke said. "But I'm up for whatever we can do to get as many things as possible. It would be fantastic if [sports] can happen, but we always want to err on the side of safety."

Zayas said that no matter which plan happens, his goal to is give the more than half-a-million New York state student-athletes a chance to participate this school year in interscholastic athletics.

"As an association we felt, we wanted to allow schools to reopen and then integrate and implement the athletic program," Zayas said during a press conference over Zoom on Thursday afternoon. "My goal is to give each student-athlete a chance to play their sport."


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