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Not This Fall

NYSPHSAA Pushes Football, Volleyball To Condensed Spring Season

Local high school football and volleyball teams will not begin their seasons until March 1, the NYSPHSAA decided Wednesday. P-J file photos

LATHAM — High school football and volleyball will not be played this fall in Western New York after all.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced Wednesday that high-risk fall sports are being moved to a condensed spring season in between the traditional winter and spring sports seasons in New York state.

“We’ve spent two days speaking with nearly 500 athletic directors across the state and it’s clear that administering high-risk fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic presents a significant challenge for our member schools,” said Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA executive director. “These are unprecedented times and unfortunately, difficult decisions will have to be made to address this ongoing crisis. We continue to stay committed to providing support to our member schools and quality participation experiences for the students we serve.”

Fall Sports II, as it was called during a nearly hour-long Zoom call with members of the media, will begin March 1. During a typical winter, March 1 falls around Section VI basketball semifinals and finals, and if state playoffs are held this winter there would still be another two weeks of winter sports to be played that would overlap with the new season.

“The NYSPHSAA officers have determined it would be unrealistic to host football, volleyball and competitive cheer seasons this fall,” said Julie Bergman, NYSPHSAA president. “This continues to be the most challenging situation educators have ever addressed. I, along with my fellow officers, believe the participation experiences for football, volleyball and competitive cheer athletes will be more beneficial in the spring than in the fall.”

Zayas was asked if moving football, volleyball and cheerleading to the spring guarantees those sports will be played this school year.

“I don’t think that anything is a given right now. If we lead anybody to believe that anything is a given in the upcoming school year, we are misleading people and we are certainly not trying to do that,” he said. “What we are saying is the likelihood of student-athletes having a quality participation experience in March in those high-risk sports is better than it would be to start high-risk sports right now.”

Because of the new season, the traditional spring season has been pushed back to an April 19 start date after being originally scheduled to begin March 15. Zayas also noted that if low- to moderate-risk fall sports seasons are interrupted for any reason, there is the chance they could also be moved to the Fall Sports II season in March and April. Student-athletes will be allowed to play in all four seasons.

“Based upon the discretion of the officers of the association, if the Fall Season I … is impacted or interrupted in any form or fashion, it’s up to those officers to examine when it’s impacted how many games, how many weeks have been played to determine if it would be in the best interest of those students to move it to the spring season … or consider it a finished season,” Zayas said. “If the fall season were to play eight or nine weeks and was interrupted, that would probably constitute a season. If the fall season started Sept. 21 and was forced to conclude or was suspended in early October, I think the discretion of the officers would be to take those low- and moderate-risk sports and add them to football and volleyball in the spring.”

Now, instead of worrying about inclement weather and snow at the end of football season, schools and student-athletes will likely deal with it during the first part of the season.

“I’m going to be praying for the warmest winter in the history of New York state,” Zayas said. “(Bad weather) is a concern. It’s a reality of the situation and it’s one of the obstacles that we’re going to have to deal with. … This is not an ideal situation, but nothing has really been ideal for the past six months. We’re trying our best to provide participation opportunities for students with the obstacles and challenges placed before them.”

The end date for Fall Sports II is being left up to individual sections, but Zayas thought it would be unrealistic to think much of a postseason would be able to be played.

“I think it’s going to be challenging to attempt to host any kind of a culminating event or a playoff in Season II starting in March, just with how condensed the season is going to be,” Zayas said. “That’s completely up to the discretion of those sections if they are able to figure that out.”

Low- and moderate-risk sports are still authorized to begin practices Monday, Sept. 21. State championships, which were already canceled for all fall sports due to the pandemic, will still not take place even during the condensed Fall Sports II season.

Despite a report that came out Wednesday stating that there have been zero reports of “significant community COVID-19 spread” despite thousands of high school football games being played, Zayas felt the governing body’s decision was the right one for New York.

“There’s an awful lot going on throughout the country that we’re fully aware of. We are the state of New York and we have to address the situation with the challenges and obstacles that we have placed before us,” he said. “I think, when you look at the decision that we made today it’s focused on what’s in the best interest of those student-athletes with the readily available information that we have access to.”

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