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Sunday, July 23, 2017: NYSPHSAA Central Committee meeting preview

   Leading off today: The New York State Public High School Athletic Association will hold its annual Central Committee meeting beginning Tuesday on the shore of the St. Lawrence River in Clayton.

   A fair amount of the agenda is pro forma stuff such as reports from officers and formal approval of proposals that have sailed through approval at lower levels and are in no danger of being torpedoed at this juncture.

   For instance, Albany's Capital Center (boys volleyball), Ithaca College (girls swimming) and Cold Spring Harbor High School (girls gymnastics) are all but certain to be OK'd for three-year contracts to host NYSPHSAA championships beginning in 2018. Their respective sport committees, the NYSPHSAA office staff and the Championship Advisory Committee have already given their approval to all three, and it might take a combined 90 seconds to attach the official stamp on Tuesday or Wednesday.

   Likewise, new classification cutoffs for two sports effective in the fall of 2018 have already been scutinized this year and shouldn't meet resistance.

   Football looks like this:

Class Current cutoffs Proposed cutoffs Percent
Class AA 930-over 1025-over 14.90%
Class A 570-929 585-1024 22.83%
Class B 365-569 355-584 22.83%
Class C 240-364 230-354 23.07%
Class D 239-under 229-under 16.34%
   And girls volleyball, which will have five classes of nearly identical size, looks like this:

Class Current cutoffs Proposed cutoffs
Class AA 941-over 950-over
Class A 587-940 598-949
Class B 345-586 368-597
Class C 203-344 221-367
Class D 202-under 220-under

   On the other hand, an equally straightforward chart that's been in use the past four school years stands a chance of being the single issue that slows progression through the 200-page agenda and meeting reference manual to a crawl.

   The Central Committee is being asked to vote on a proposal to adjust the graduated scale used for determining a BEDS number when schools combine teams in a sport. That mechanism was voted into place in January 2013 to assist schools that were at risk of dropping certain sports in the face of declining turnout by students and a persistent decline in enrollment in many districts.

   The practice of combining teams already existed, but the participating schools had to use 100 percent of their BEDS figures in determining placement in sectional and state tournaments. Schools whose programs were on relatively firm ground typically were reluctant to take in distressed partners if it meant moving up one or even two classes in the postseason.

   Under the measure approved for the 2013-14 school year (more background here), only between 20 and 50 percent of the smaller school's BEDS figure needed to be counted -- and the incentive could be applied to multiple schools in the combined program.


   (Note: I think the data I'm citing below is relevant, but my numbers should not be taken as gospel. The information is derived from what I compile each year for the NYSSWA Kerr Cup All-Sport Championship, which tracks the top eight teams in NYSPHSAA championship events. While certainly representative of the trend, I don't pretend to know if it tells the whole story. ... Statistics are funny that way.)

   The effect of the new rule was almost immediate. There were just six combined teams placing in the top eight in 2012-13 NYSPHSAA championships and eight in 2013-14, before many districts started taking advantage on the graduated scale. In the three years since, there have been 19, 21 and 20 finishing in the top eight. Pittsford, which combines Mendon and Sutherland high schools in some sports but not all, is far and away the most frequently

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successful combined program. Fueled by powerful lacrosse, swimming and hockey programs, the Panthers account for 16 of the 60 appearances in the top eight by combined teams over the past three years.

   Not all instances are equal, however. Across the state, there has been an average of 11 appearances in the top eight in the past three years in sports with official team championships such as football, soccer and basketball. The rest were in sports such as swimming, track and wrestling in which team standings could be compiled but team trophies were not at stake. Still, that average of 11 is a sharp jump from just two in the final year without the graduated scale.

   That was enough to start raising concerns about the formation of "super teams," a topic of some unofficial discussion at the 2016 Central Committee meeting. A committee was formed to study options and came back in March with proposed changes to the graduated scale that would take effect in September 2018:

Class AA 100% 50%
Class A 100% 40%
Class B 100% 30%
Class C 40% 30%
Class D 30% 20%

   In addition, combined programs in team sports formed from four or more schools would have to count 100 percent of their BEDS figures.

   From what I gathered in May ahead of an Executive Committee meeting, membership is torn -- but not about whether change is needed. What hestistation exists revolves around whether the numbers were being bumped up too drastically. The Executive Committee representatives were asked to bring the proposal back to their sections for further study, and it's tough to tell if there are enough votes on the larger Central Committee to pass it as is.

   As such, it dwarfs the rest of the agenda in terms of intrigue.

   Other key votes: The NYSPHSAA looks at the fees paid to game officials for state championship events every three years. The Central Committee is being asked to approve what averages out to a 12.87 percent increase from the existing fee schedule.

   For example, boys and girls basketball officials working state final four games will see bumps to $91 per game next March, $101 in 2019 and $111 in 2020. Football is slated for $105, $112 and then $119.

    • There are currently 36 states that allow athletes to practice with their teams while ineligible to play due to rules governing transfers. The NYSPHSAA seems likely to become No. 37, with supporters citing the benefit of helping students fit into their new surroundings.

   Other items: An ice hockey proposal we previously documented will come to a vote. If approved, games will expand from 15 minutes per period to 17 and minor penalties will be bumped up to two minutes from 1:30 beginning with the 2018-19 season. That would keep the NYSPHSAA in the good graces of the National Federation, preserving the NYSPHSAA's ability to participate on the national body's rules committee.

    • Of the two revisions to the NYSPHSAA transgender guidelines, the larger calls for eligibility to be assessed at the start of each sports season rather than on a one-time-only basis. The rationale is that a transgender student's status can change significantly with respect to hormone treatment and other factors.

[ Continued on Page 2 ]

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