It was clear from Dr. Robert Zayas’ words in a Monday conference call that the decision by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to cancel the state championships for spports was a difficult one.
“As a former participant in a state championship in Texas growing up, I still remember my splits from the 2-mile that I ran in outdoor track and field,” said Zayas, the executive director of NYSPSHAA, “so I realize the impact this has upon students, and that’s the most disappointing thing for me as the executive director, as a former athlete and as a father.”
Also Monday, the Section II Executive Committee announced that it was canceling the sectional championships for spring sports, shortly after the NYSPHSAA announcement.
The regular spring sports season remains on hold, however, suspended by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Pause order that has closed state schools through at least May 15 during the coronavirus pandemic.
But faced with a shrinking window of time to squeeze in any potential regular season and state tournaments, NYSPHSAA opted to cancel the spring state playoffs. The association had similarly canceled the winter state championships in March.
“The most disappointing thing about this decision is realizing that this negatively impacts kids,” Zayas said. “There are thousands of student-athletes throughout the state of New York that had established the spring state championships as their goal, and unfortunately the decision today eliminates their ability to achieve their dream of participating in the 2020 spring state championships.”
Zayas said it would be very premature to look ahead to any potential impact on fall high school sports.
“It’s too early to start speculating or trying to create a contingency plan for the fall season when we really don’t honestly know what’s going to happen in the next week or the next few months,” Zayas said.
In the case of a potential fall impact or delay, Zayas said an ad hoc committee would be created with representatives from schools, sections and the state to recommend options.
But in the present, state and Section II championships for baseball, softball, girls and boys lacrosse, boys tennis, and girls and boys track and field are canceled. Spring state championships had been scheduled for June 4-13 in those sports.
If state schools reopen after May 15, there is a chance scholastic sports could resume for a few weeks of events, depending on social distancing and health department guidelines.
“It’s disappointing, but we pretty much knew it was coming,” said Fort Ann softball coach Jason Humiston, whose Cardinals were hoping to pursue their 10th straight Section II title this season. “I feel bad for both our boys and girls and everybody going through this. … It’s unfortunate. There’s no feeling like getting to sectionals and winning it. Our only last hope is if the (Adirondack) league can get together for some kind of championship.”
“I kind of foresaw this as the way things have been going,” said Ticonderoga baseball coach Dan Dorsett, whose team was the defending state Class C champion. “Now we’re hoping for anything local. We had a good core of kids coming back and they were really excited about what we could do. I hope they can in some fashion play some games.”
Zayas met with the executive directors of NYSPHSAA’s 11 sections before making the decision to cancel the state championships, which was based on time constraints and the availability of venues.
“We as an association have been analyzing this decision for a number of weeks,” Zayas said. “It just got to a point where we realized that it wasn’t logistically going to be possible to host the 2020 spring state championship events.”
The spring sports season remains on hold for nine of the 11 sections in NYSPHSAA. Sections VIII and XI, the two Long Island sections, officially canceled their spring sports seasons entirely on April 21.
Zayas said the decision to play games is up to individual sections. However, schools would have to be reopened by Gov. Cuomo in order for spring sports to resume.
“If the New York Pause is lifted and sports are part of schools resuming,” Zayas said, “and a school district and a section can provide students with the opportunity to participate in a few games or contests, that would be extremely beneficial for our student-athletes and their communities because it would give them the opportunity to get back to some sense of normalcy, after the past two or three months of being chaos.”
Spring sports practices had begun in early March, before state schools were ordered closed on March 14. However, Zayas said if regular-season play resumes, NYSPHSAA would reset the number of required practices before playing games — six for all sports except baseball, which requires 10 practices — in the interest of safety.
While the cutoff date for state tournament play was June 13, there is potential for sections to play into late June. Zayas said the Commissioner of Education rules have set the spring season as 15 weeks long, and it’s up to each section to determine when their season would end.
“The sections have the authority to determine how long their spring season will go or if they will have a spring season,” Zayas said. “I do not have the authority as the executive director to tell a section that their season is done or canceled.”
Zayas did not foresee any sports season extending beyond June, because of contracts with coaches, officials, grounds crews, custodians, transportation and others that would potentially have to be renegotiated.
“Right now there’s 38 states across the country that have already had to cancel their spring sports seasons — most notably Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, have all canceled in our geographic region,” Zayas said. “So we have to be aware of what’s happening throughout the country, that if spring sports are going to be held, they’re going to be held in June and late May.”
Follow Pete Tobey on Twitter @PTobeyPSVarsity.
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