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Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018: NYSPHSAA to vote on enrollment cutoffs

   Leading off today: It's come down to crunch time regarding the topic of number-crunching by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

   The organization's Executive Committee will conduct a regularly scheduled meeting Friday in Troy, and we should know by the end of the day what direction the state's largest governing body will take on setting new classification cutoffs for its most popular sports beginning next fall.

   Representatives from the 11 sections have been reviewing two options for the "five classification cutoffs" since last summer. That's the most important set of classification cutoffs because it sets the postseason tournament classes for the state's most popular team sports in terms of the number of teams -- soccer, basketball, baseball and softball.

   The seemingly obvious way to go is to divide schools into five classes with approximately the same number of schools in each. The other option that's been discussed is one in which more schools are squeezed into Class B and fewer in Class AA. It may look awkward at the macro level -- there would by 107 AA schools in AA and 185 in B, but would smooth out some of the class-by-class distributions in individual sections.

Current Balanced Unbalanced
Class AA 910-up 825-up 965-up
Class A 480-909 440-824 500-964
Class B 280-479 250-439 270-499
Class C 170-279 146-249 150-269
Class D 1-169 1-145 1-149
   The cutoffs are due for a change because individual school enrollments change at differing speeds over time. Some districts show growth from year to year, but many others (especially upstate) have been shrinking in a trend that's been apparent for much of the century.

   To lend some perspective, here's a random sampling of five Upstate New York schools that had BEDS figures in the vicinity of 500 for the 2007-08 school year -- and where they stand now.

School (Sec.) '07-08 '11-12 '15-16 '17-18
Taconic Hills (2) 513 371 315 324
Dryden (4) 491 437 352 335
Wayland-Cohocton (5)476 375 310 318
Medina (6) 472 443 380 378
Holland Patent (3) 466 405 363 334
   A portion of the decline in enrollment figures has to do with changes in the way some students are classified for State Education Department purposes, but the general trend is apparent. If not for the changes to cutoffs, two of the five would have slipped from large Class B programs to Class C and two others would be clinging to the low end of Class B.

   Here's how the cutoffs have broken down in four-year intervals since the 2003-04 school year, which marked the addition of a fifth class to the basketball championships:

'03-04 '07-08 '11-12 '15-16
Class AA 900-up 950-up 925-up 910-up
Class A 550-899 550-949 525-924 480-909
Class B 350-549 325-549 305-524 280-479
Class C 200-349 193-324 175-304 170-279
Class D 1-199 1-192 1-174 1-169
   A separate item on the agenda, but one obviously related is a vote to approve the school enrollment numbers for 2018-19. That data came down from the State Education Department based on data collected in the fall and has been in the hands of sectional executive directors to look for inaccuracies.

   If approved by the Executive Committee on Friday, the numbers should be made available to the public a little later this month. Combined with the decision on which way to go on the five-class cutoffs, that will set off a race by league chairmen and ADs in most sections to nail down fall schedules before classes let out in June.

   If all goes according to plan, this will be the last time that the process works that way. The Executive Committee has already approved a plan that will rely upon year-old enrollment data beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

   That will allow the schools plenty of time to work from finalized State Education Department data released in June of the previous year rather than the January numbers that may contain as-yet uncorrected errors. It will invariably result in a few schools playing in the "wrong" class in some sports each year but will have no substantial impact overall.


   State tournament hosts: We're coming down the home stretch for finalizing future championship venues in six sports. The Executive Committee will be asked to approve the following sites for contracts beginning in 2019, and all are expected to sail through the final step of the process:

    • The Times Union Center in Albany to remain as host of the wrestling individual championships through 2021.

    • Rochester Institute of Technology as the home for competitive cheerleading through 2021.

    • HarborCenter in Buffalo to remain as host for boys ice hockey through 2021.

    • Deerfield Country Club in Brockport (west of Rochester) for girls golf through 2021.

    • Strike 'N' Spare Lanes in Syracuse for bowling in 2019 and '20.

    • Skiing is a bit of a different animal, with three different combinations of alpine/nordic set-ups splitting the duties after each had sought exclusive ownership of the event: Gore Mountain (alpine) and North Creek (nordic) in 2019, Bristol Mountain and Harriet Hollister Park in 2020, and Whiteface Mountain and Mt. Van Hoevenburg in 2021.

   Cheerleading went from no takers the first time bids for 2019-21 were solicited to a pair of submissions from RIT and the Onondaga War Memorial in Syracuse in the re-bid.

    Of the six sports, ice hockey is probably the most interesting decision -- and one I totally overlooked when that sport's committee met Oct. 2 to make its recommendation.

   There was much hand-wringing when the decision was made to move from Utica to Buffalo beginning in 2016. There was still some dissent this time in the form of a 6-3 vote by the sectional reps on the hockey committee, but both that group and the NYSPHSAA staff did support staying at HarborCenter.

   I still think that Utica or another location can submit a winning bid on a future contract, but for now the event has most definitely found a home in Western New York. I mention that in no small part because The Post-Star reported this week that Glens Falls has begun work on its effort to take back the NYSPHSAA boys basketball tournament, which will be held in Binghamton this year and next.

   The paper reported Mayor Dan Hall has asked Councilman Scott Endieveri to be the liaison with the group working to win back the event. Glens Falls AD Chip Corlew is in the process of preparing for the bid submission this fall.

   Modified sports: The NYSPHSAA has been working toward a significant overhaul of modified sports, and the Executive Committee will hear an update on the major topics that its Modified Committee has been discussing internally and at the sectional level heading in an April meeting that could prove pivotal for the future of sports below the JV level.

   The NYSPHSAA has already moved to sync modified sports start dates with the JV and varsity seasons. By next school year, there could me more and longer modified contests and a general overhaul of rules.

   In no small part, the inspiration for the overhaul stems from the growth of club sports and travel teams. On one hand, those programs unaffiliated with school districts have exposed young students to the fundamentals of sports at an early age.

   On the other hand -- and using basketball as an example -- those same programs have steadily picked off 12- to 14-year-olds who are able to play 25 or more regulation games instead of 14 contests with seven-minute quarters.

   Emerging sports: NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas frequently hears from representatives of sports or activities looking to gain official standing within the organization. Just since the middle of last year, the list of contacts has included table tennis, eSports, girls wrestling, Ultimate Frisbee and weightlifting.

   New York already has some "tweener" sports -- those that are recognized but don't have full-fledged state championship status (fencing, girls ice hockey, etc.) -- and Zayas will raise the idea of developing an "emerging sport" policy that will lend limited support to the wanna-be activities once they meet a certain threshold.

   To that end, he will present a brief summary of what the Missouri State High School Activities Association does for emerging sports.

   Wednesday game highlights: Patrick Meisenzahl made six 3-pointers and scored 24 points as Class A No. 11 Greece Athena beat No. 8 Irondequoit 74-67 in boys basketball.

   It was Athena's 12th straight win since a loss to No. 21 Pittsford Sutherland.

   Irondequoit's Gerald Drumgoole scored 30 points in the loss.

    • Ethan Louisos scored the tying goal for St. Joe's late in the second period to tie Niagara-Wheatfield 1-1 in boys hockey. St. Joe's outshot N-W 25-14.

    • N-W is ranked sixth in Division I and St. Joe's is tied for 15th according to the NYSSWA.

   Change of direction: Troy wide receiver Dev Holmes, a first team all-state selection for the NYSPHSAA Class AA champions, said on social media that he has switched his commitment from Villanova to Albany.

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