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Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019: Recapping the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee meeting

   Leading off today: Driving home from Saratoga Springs on Friday night, I couldn't help but think about the warning that hockey coaches always give their players: Referees are going to miss what the instigator does from time to time but they'll catch the guy who retaliates 100 percent of the time.

   It's not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but hockey people will probably remember what transpired Friday at the NYSPHSAA meeting much longer than they recall what led up to the vote that ultimately resulted in the decision to revert to 15-minute periods and 90-second minor penalties effective with the start of the state tournament next month.

   News that emerged Friday that hockey officials had turned down a seemingly reasonable compromise earlier in the week that ultimately triggered the decision. But you couldn't have rolled a bowling ball through the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Committee meeting without hitting someone conceding that the state's largest governing body for high school sports should have anticipated the problem and headed it off.

   And here's the great irony of the biggest development to come from the quarterly meeting: The hockey officials did the NYSPHSAA a huge favor by rejecting the compromise on pay for working 17-minute periods at the state tournament. Had the deal been made, the NYSPHSAA might have found itself in perpetual negotiations with various groups coming to the table with requests that may or may not have had any merit to them.

   Instead, the NYSPHSAA takes a justified public relations hit with its own hockey community for the time being but it at least able to walk away with its policies and procedures intact.

   "This can be characterized an issue of process or precedent," NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas told The Journal News. "There is a concern that if we give the hockey officials more money and set our process aside, we could make things difficult if not impossible going forward."

   The issue came down to the change enacted at the beginning of the season, when hockey games were extended to 17-minute periods. The NYSPHSAA went through more of a year of planning for the transition without adequately anticipating the obvious: The officials were going to want to be paid for the extra time on the ice.

   A fact-finder sided with their request for about 13 percent more money and the NYSPHSAA balked because it had been a policy to reset pay every third year based on the average that local-level officials were getting through contracts negotiated with the sections.

   "If we give the hockey officials more now, what's to prevent the basketball officials from asking for more?" Zayas explained.

   The New York State Sportswriters Association first reported on Monday that the NYSPHSAA's Championship Advisory Committee was recommending returning to 15-minute periods, and Zayas tried heading it off with a compromise proposal calling for a smaller raise this year (based on the most recent statewide average), followed by a recalibration in time for the 2020 tournament -- by which time the officials may have negotiated higher rates with some of the sections that would result in more money at the state level.

   That would have broken with the way the NYSPHSAA handled the process and created unintended consequences, but that became moot when the hockey officials informed Zayas on Tuesday that they weren't interested.

   It literally left the Executive Committee with no real option when it came time to vote Friday. Since the CAC recommendation was the only motion on the floor during a lengthy discussion beforehand, the question eventually arose as to what would happen if it was shot down. Saying no to returning to 15-minute periods would have left the NYSPHSAA with longer games but technically no means to pay the officials the 13 percent increase.

   Still, the vote was 10-10, leaving NYSPHSAA President Paul Harrica to cast the deciding vote.

   "My goal is not to hurt kids. My goal is to make sure we follow proper procedures," he told the Executive Committee in casting the vote to return to 15-minute periods, which will also affect the regular season and sectionals beginning next school year.

   Understandably, the hockey community was generally not happy as the news filtered down via The Journal News, The Post-Star and The Buffalo News.

   Other major developments: In three-plus years of attending most of the quarterly meetings, the hockey vote was the first I could recall ending in a tie that had to be broken. There was nearly a second tie coming from the same meeting.

   The Executive Committee voted 12-10 against allowing sports with more than 500 participating schools to add a sixth state playoff classification. Sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 came out on the losing end of a vote that quite honestly I didn't think would be that close.


   Subtle yet significant: The Executive Committee voted to revise the transfer rule by adding a note clarifying that a student's eligibility is determined by the facts that exist at the time of registration.

   In short, it means that an ineligibility ruling cannot be erased by cleaning up the underlying issue afterward. That's been the policy, but the new notation in the handbook serves as a clearer warning to families to have their ducks in a row before initiating the transfer process.

   Venue choices: With very rare exceptions, Executive Committee votes on future state championship hosts are pro forma, basically rubber-stamping decisions made by the NYSPHSAA office staff and the respective sports committees.

   It's why Glens Falls (boys basketball), Mo- riches Athletic Complex in Brookhaven (softball) and Cortland (girls lacrosse) were confirmed as hosts for 2020 through '22 with little or no dissent.

   The girls basketball vote, though, was a different matter. Adding to a lively day, Section 4 sought to have Corning High School reconsid- ered even though the basketball committee voted overwhelmingly last year to stick with longtime host Hudson Valley Community College.

   About 10 minutes of discussion ensued. Sections 1 and 3 sided with Section 4 in the vote, but it wasn't nearly enough.

   If nothing else, I learned that Corning's 84-foot court is regarded as standard for high school basketball. (College and professional courts are 94 feet.) But the length of the court was only one of several factors working against Corning in the final vote.

   Also approved: The Executive Committee voted "yes" on proposals to:

    • Recommend that NYSPHSAA schools offer full-time coverage by a certified athletic trainer.

    • Allow the NYSPHSAA office to change the classification of a school with drastic enrollment changes related to situations such as being placed into receivership by the New York State Education Department.

    • Standardize the practice requirement. The rule will now read "A student must practice 6 times before representing his/her school in a scrimmage or contest in all sports except football, gymnastics, wrestling, and baseball which require 10 practices."

    • Approve the video review protocol to be used in the state hockey tournament beginning next month.

    • Allow a baseball pitcher to stay in the game as the designated hitter after being removed from the mound.

    • Allow female individual-sport athletes such as wrestlers and golfers to participate via mixed competition in both boys and girls regular-season events, as long as the athlete doesn't exceed the maximum number of contests. However, the athletes will have to decide between boys or girls postseason competitions.

   Setting the table: There was scant discussion about the football committee's request to add at-large teams to fill out the brackets in three classes beginning as early as next fall, a development I reported Thursday. Barring any dramatic developments in the interim, the proposal to allocate some berts to losers of sectional finals on a rotating basis will be put to a vote in May as part of what's shaping up to be a busy agenda.

   That vote should be the day's co-headliner along with the Executive Committee making the decision on whether to switch to using NFHS playing rules in girls basketball, boys and girls volleyball, softball and gymnastics. On Friday, the Executive Committee declined to have the matter resolved by the seldom-used referendum process.

   Also noteworthy will be a vote on a proposed adjustment to the annual calendar, which would result in some changes to seasonal start and end dates.

   Other updates: The committee was advised that the exploration of eSports by an ad hoc committee remains in the early stages. The possibility of online gaming becoming a NYSPHSAA activity remains real, but not in the immediate future.

   With weather being a factor, total profits for the fall-sport state championships slipped to about $138,000. Football and girls soccer were among the sports taking big hits.

   Section 3 raised the possibility of playing the state eight-man football championship game at the Carrier Dome in the future. It's not absolute evidence of such, but might be an indication that New York intends to continue playing eight-man on the standard-sized field.

   Section 2 expressed concern that the new method of calculation enrollment figures from BEDS data (disregarding 11th-graders but adding in the average of ninth- and 10th-grade classes) is pushing schools into larger playoff classes.

   The NYSPHSAA is reactivating its transfer committee to assess various issues and proposals that have emerged in recent months.

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