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Sunday, May 6, 2018: Recapping Friday's NYSPHSAA meeting

   Leading off today: I've mentioned more than once in recent years that I think it would be good use of a reporter's time to attend the quarterly meetings of the NYSPHSAA's Executive Committee.

   That's increasingly difficult these days because most (all?) of the high school sports reporters that I know have been on the "do more with less" treadmill for a good many years and simply do not have the time to drive two or three hours, let alone sit through four-plus hours of meetings.

   Having said that, Friday's meeting was a newsy one even though there were not many items up for votes and most of the one that were -- site selections for upcoming football and baseball championships, for instance -- were foregone conclusions.

   In no particular order, the headline-worthy news of the day included:

   (1) The revelation that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office has "concerns" about the transfer rules enforced by the NYSPHSAA, apparently because an unhappy family in the Southern Tier has been bending the ear of numerous people all the way from Sidney in Delaware County to Albany.

   (2) A sub-committee will study whether tournament championship dates have to remain anchored to particular spots on the calendar. The subject frequently comes up in football, in which the finals have traditionally been held on Thanksgiving weekend. By extension, the starts of sports seasons could shift as well. Pushing back the start of basketball season would be one possibility, especially if football finals end up being moved to early December.

   (3) There's a new push to expand the state football tournament from five classes to six, which would potentially open the door for other sports to expand as well.

   (4) Logistics are being studied so that wildcards could potentially be added to the NYSPHSAA football tournament as early as 2019 in order to assure that brackets in all classes have a full complement of teams.

   (5) Michele Ziegler had been dismissed as the state coordinator for cheerleading.

   The stories behind the headlines: I am not up to speed on the transfer-rule dispute that had made its way to the governor's office -- upon returning home I realized the notes in my files on a recent transfer case had nothing to do with this situation -- but the case is part of a broader story: Elected officials frequently seek to intervene on matters in which they have no expertise and a comparable grasp of the actual facts -- especially in an election year.

   Kevin Banes, who is the legislative lobbyist for the NYSPHSAA, also updated the Executive Committee on two other looming issues -- a bill recently introduced by a member of the state assembly and the ongoing effort by families of home-schooled children to gain access to high school sports programs.

   I blogged late last month about Linda B. Rosenthal, an assemblywoman representing a Manhattan district, and her effort to pass a law that would end riflery, archery and trap shooting programs in public schools.


   I never received follow-up from Rosenthal's office when I inquired as to what was behind her bill, but Banes called it "a political proposal," noting that she has referenced the NRA and the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

   Rosenthal, characterized by Banes as very progressive, said she became concerned after learning that the shooter in the massacre was a member of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program's marksmanship club.

   (If I made an unsupported stretch like that, I'd be hospitalized for two weeks with a torn groin muscle.)

   The home schools issue, championed by my local state senator (Joseph Robach) is both not going away and going nowhere at the same time. It regularly garners support in the senate, but not the assembly. With Cuomo pushing an aggressive to-do list while preparing for a primary that has the potential to do surprising damage to how he's perceived statewide and nationally, the prevailing opinion is the bill will once again be stuck in a drawer and not advance to a vote this spring.

    •The idea of moving championships off their traditional blocks on the calendar is not new. Starting springs sports earlier may be implausible because of weather factors, but shortening the too-long winter season by lengthening the fall sports window figures to interest people.

   On the other hand, don't assume pushing back football's finals by a week is an avenue to add an extra regular-season game to the schedule. Nor does it mean an extra round of playoffs in order to bring Long Island into the state tourna-


ment; there's some support in Sections 8 and 11 to move in that direction, but hardly a consensus.

   On the subject of competition dates, Executive Director Robert Zayas took note of the fact that Regents exams in 2019 will fall a week later than usual on the calendar. That in theory allows for the addition of a week to the regular season. Before that happens, though, sections will be checking to see if that affects hotel arrangements and sports committees will be looking to see if facilities will be available that weekend.

    • It seems as though it was just yesterday that the football committee last sought to add a sixth playoff class, but it's already been three years since that pitch started moving through the system. It's difficult to tell at this juncture whether the sentiment of the Executive Committee may have changed since.

   The growth of eight-man football may come into play in that discussion. In as little as two years, we could have the necessary six sections fielding enough eight-man teams to qualify for state-championship status. If such expansion occurs, the football committee and the Executive Committee will need to monitor what that does to the enrollment disparity between the largest and smallest 11-man teams in Classes AA and D, the best argument for adding the sixth class.

    • I'd written back in March that the disparity in the number of Class D teams in the East and West halves of the bracket has been bad recently and will be getting a whole lot worse this fall -- I think what I heard Friday was that it's shaping up as 54 teams in Sections 3 through 6 and just eight from Sections 1, 2, 7, 9 and 10.

   One of my suggestions was that the hockey committee's use of wildcard bids be adopted, and it appears that could happen by 2019 and also be applied to the annual bye in Class AA. State football coordinator Gary VanDerzee said his committee has begun discussing the logistics.

   One scenario in Class D might have Sections 3 through 6 devise a rotation that sends probably two of their sectional runners-up into the East half of the bracket for the quarterfinals. It creates the possibility of a Carrier Dome rematch two weeks later of sectional championship game opponents, similar to what we saw in the Division II hockey tournament in March.

   Cheerleading has issues: I can't believe I'm typing this, but the cheerleading situation referenced above in the list of five headline-worthy meeting notes deserves its own separate write-up here because that sport is a mess at the moment.

   It's possible other state sport coordinators have been relieved of their duties over the years, but it certainly hasn't happened recently and not since Zayas became executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association in September 2012.

   "It's certainly nothing that I wanted to do," Zayas told me after the meeting, "but I think at some point we have to figure things out and make decisions that are in the best interest of kids. Unfortunately I had to make that decision."

   It happened not long after the NYSPHSAA competitive Cheerleading championships in March, and on Friday the Executive Committee approved Jen Simmons from Section 1 as the interim replacement. Putting a sectional executive director in charge as opposed to appointing a member of the cheerleading committee speaks volumes as to the frustration felt by higher-ups in the NYSPHSAA.

   As he spoke to the Executive Committee about what's taking place in the sport at the moment, there was frustration in Zayas' voice that I had never heard in five-plus years of dealing with him on a regular basis.

   The short story is this: Competitive cheerleading became a recognized championship sport three years ago. It became apparent almost immediately that the upstate and downstate perceptions of what the sport should be were then -- and still are -- wildly diverging. In trying to blend what anyone over the age of 40 might consider traditional cheerleading (often referred to as "Game Day Cheer") with the more modern dance and quasi-gymnastics elements, the cheerleading committee developed a rubric scoring system that is so complex that the NASA engineers who were responsible for landing astronauts on the moon would walk away shaking their heads in confusion.

   It's been a source of frustration for spectators and for the people being asked to judge the championships, and it's raised questions about the credibility of the championships going forward.

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