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Saturday, July 21, 2018: Previewing next week's NYSPHSAA meeting

   Leading off today: Unlike the past few years, there aren't any heavyweight items on the agenda when the Central Committee of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association convenes for its annual meeting next week, but there are several interesting proposals heading for votes.

   Off the top of my head, the 2017 meeting brought about a major change in the formula used for determining BEDS numbers for teams made up of combinations of two or more schools. The 2016 meeting opened with the revelation that the NYSPHSAA would consider the creation of one or two new sections made up exclusively of non-public and charter schools after a new flare-up of the public vs. private fight. And the 2015 meeting saw the adoption of a rule that extended the stringent new amendments to the transfer rule to junior-high students.

   When two days of meetings begin Tuesday in Lake Placid, sectional executive directors and several state sport coordinators will be in attendance. But it's primarily the four voting members from each of the 11 sections who will be making decisions on a variety of topics that don't quite measure up to past blockbusters.

   Chief among them is the potential second revision in two years to the rule governing the way enrollment numbers are calculated when schools combine to form a team. A year ago, the Central Committee increased the percentage of students counted for determining the combined team's enrollment and playoff class.

   Now, a proposal out of Section 9 would change the guidelines by using the specific sport's classification numbers instead of relying upon the so-called "five-class numbers" that cover the most popular team sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball and softball.

   That could result in subtle changes in numbers that could be enough to move a few teams up or down. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't seem like a big issue. Where it gets a bit murky, though, is in sports with just two state tournament classes, such as wrestling and ice hockey. A Division II school -- which could in fact be fairly large already -- could take on up to two small partners, only have to count 40 percent of the additional enrollment and still play in the smaller classification.

   Again, there would not be much of an overall effect, but it's a safe bet that someone will raise examples of the potential for three schools at the high end of the "mid-sized" range to get together and still land in Division II.

   Two other items up for votes are likely to garner the headlines if any media reports live from Lake Placid (I can't make the trip this year):

    • The boys ice hockey committee wants to adopt video replay technology in the postseason to review goals and undetected goals and for determining correct time on the game clock, all of which is permitted under National Federation rules.

   Given that there have been some hugely controversial on-ice rulings in state-tournament contests in recent years, hockey seemingly would be the sport that the NYSPHSAA would want to OK for instant replay. (Basketball already has a limited replay rule for its final fours.)

    • Outdoor track and field is back once more to try to fix what I consider an injustice. Whereas swimming long ago adopted automatic qualifying standards for its state meets, track and field routinely leaves home fourth-place finishers at state qualifiers who would be contenders to reach the medals podium the following weekend.

   The track committee wants approval for a new set of qualifying provisions for a two-year experiment that would allow athletes to qualify for states by meeting very stringent times or marks. Given that the "super standard" is a five-year average of fourth-place finishes in state finals, this will only help a handful of competitors who hit the mark at any point of the season advance.

   Still, it would begin to address a fairness issue since the percentage of track athletes currently allowed to compete at states does not reach the NYSPHSAA's existing guidelines.

   Also headed for votes by the Central Committee:

    • The overhaul of competitive cheerleading appears to be moving along. Reps of the 11 sections will be asked to sign off on a massive simplification of the scoring structure, updated coaches education presentations and new training for judges -- all of which have been OK'd by the cheerleading committee and sectional executive directors.


   Separately, the creation of the so-called "Game Day Cheer" program will be up for a vote. Game Day is more along the lines of sideline and timeout cheerleading routines us older folks grew up with at games. There's no state championship competition on the horizon, but in-season events could be adopted.

    • Bowling also has a pair of proposals awaiting votes. The first calls for pushing the annual state tournament back by a week on the schedule. The second spaces out the state competition over three days instead of two, alleviating some of the congestion during the busiest portions of the schedule.

    • The NYSPHSAA wants to make provisions for assisting "emerging" sports -- i.e., those that have four or more teams in each of four sections. At that level of participation, the sport does not qualify for state championship status but the formation of a recognized sport committee might be considered prudent to promote future growth and set the table for regional and then eventual state championships.

    • A new two-year contract for officials working NYSPHSAA postseason events is up for ratification.

   These non-voting items are slated for discussion next week, with votes on some potentially coming this fall or early in 2019 after being referred back to the sections for additional review and suggestions:

    • A revision under consideration for the championship philosophy guidelines would allow sports with 500 or more

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participating teams to add a sixth state playoff class. The logistics would not be daunting in some sports such as soccer, but basketball would either have to add a second tournament venue, move semifinals to regional sites or add a fourth day to the final weekend's schedule.

    • Earlier this year, coaches and coordinators took note of the fact that 2019 Regents exams will take place a week later than usual. It was widely assumed that the various sports -- especially baseball, softball, tennis and golf -- would be able to extend their regular season by a week to lessen the effect of nasty March and April weather.

   Now, however, logistics issues are surfacing. Some state-event facilities may not be available on the later dates and some school districts have raised the issue of potentially having to extend coaches' stipends for an additional week. Spread across multiple sports, that can be a bit uncomfortable for some districts.

    • Speaking of seasons, one of the cracker barrel sessions -- less formal brainstorming by smaller groups between Central Committee sessions -- will be devoted to the recent idea of adjusting start and/or end dates for the three seasons. There seems to be some momentum in that direction, but there's still much to be hashed out.

    • The NYSPHSAA Safety Committee is moving toward a position statement regarding overuse injuries to athletes by next May, so the topic is likely to come up at the local levels quite frequently in the upcoming school year.

    • The potential overhaul of modified sports -- everything from the name to the rules of games -- remains under discussion per the NYSPHSAA Strategic Plan adopted a few years ago. The next set of recommendations is also due to the Executive Committee next May.

    • Administrators are still trying to finalize a solution to the issue that saw Buffalo East win a boys Class D basketball championship with a Class C-sized student body last winter. That situation stemmed from a reorganization after Buffalo East was placed into receivership by the State Education Department, but there are also instances from time to time when enrollments change wildly due to other circumstances. When all is said and done, it's likely the NYSPHSAA office will be given discretion to assign a BEDS number based on a sectional recommendation.

    • The knotty issue of whether volleyball, softball and girls basketball should be made to abide by National Federation rule books remains unresolved. Results of a survey of coaches and officials that wrapped up last week will be shared with the Central Committee.

   The coaches I follow on Twitter constitute a small sample size, but it seems safe to safe the girls basketball community prefers to stick with playing under NCAA rules. Stay tuned.

    • The NYSPHSAA continues to ponder a recommendation from its Safety Committee to add this sentence to its handbook:

   "NYSPHSAA recommends and supports the 'Best Practice' that every member High School has a Certified Athletic Trainer providing full-time coverage to the athletic program."

   If the statement seems innocuous, remember that the NYSPHSAA tends to be cautious about mandates -- or a recommendation in this case -- that potentially will cost some of its members substantial money.

   All-state player arrested: Buffalo media outlets reported this week that St. Joe's running back Jaden Lofton faces four felony charges stemming from a robbery in the Town of Tonawanda last month, according to a police report.

   Lofton, selected sixth-team all-state by the NYSSWA after rushing for 1,310 yards on just 140 carries, stands accused of stealing marijuana, a cellphone and cash on June 6, according to the report.

   Lofton, 18, and co-defendant Dwight D. Davis, 20, each were charged with three counts of second-degree robbery, one count of second-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. One of the robbery counts alleges the suspects displayed what appeared to be a firearm.

   "We're aware of the situation," St. Joe's AD Brian Anken said. "We're gathering information, but as far as his status, we can't comment on his status at this time."

   Lofton is due in Tonawanda Town Court on Aug. 2.

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