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Tuesday, April 30, 2019: Previewing Thursday's NYSPHSAA meeting

   Leading off today: The future of the NYSPHSAA girls soccer tournament is one of the major items to be decided Thursday when the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Committee holds its quarterly meeting in Saratoga Springs.

   The girls tournament semifinals and finals have been played since 2006 in Cortland, primarily anchored on the SUNY campus. When the girls state soccer committee met earlier this year, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of awarding Cortland another three-year contract covering 2020 through '22.

   However, the NYSPHSAA office staff gave its support to a competing bid from Section 5 that would utilize fields at Webster Thomas, Webster Schroeder and Eastridge high schools. Monroe-Woodbury also submitted a bid, but it will be up to the Executive Committee to decide between Cortland and Section 5, and there will be both financial and philosophical issues on the table.

   Financial realities can't be ignored, and the Section 5 bid came in around $10,000 cheaper than the Cortland figure of around $11,500 for the facilities.

   On the other hand, one of the goals when it comes to picking championship venues has been to strive for the best possible experience for the competitors and their supporters. While the Section 5 high school facilities are nice, they're nothing extraordinary or on the scale of SUNY Cortland.

   Where it gets tricky, however, is that Cortland has had a recent history of needing to make late changes in order to accommodate its own teams in NCAA tournament action. It's why Cortland's proposal includes the use of fields at Tompkins Cortland CC plus Homer and Cortland high schools. The Cortland bid also acknowledges potential schedule conflicts with the SUNY school's football rivalry with Ithaca College in 2020 and '22 which would affect hotel availability.

   It will be up to the Executive Committee to decide how much weight to give the issue of uncertain field availability at Cortland.

    • The Executive Committee will also vote on boys lacrosse venues for 2020-22, though it will largely be a formality. Hofstra University has consensus support for the finals and the University at Albany (East) and SUNY Cortland (West) were unanimous picks for the semifinals when the state committee met.

   Whose rules? The big topic on Thursday's agenda, if for no other reason than it's been discussed at the state and local levels for 18 months now, is the issue of whether New York should abide by National Federation rulebooks in all sports.

   Mike Zacchio at The Journal News covered the topic quite well last week in case you're not up to speed on the subject.

   Calendar vote: There's an old joke out there about how everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it.

   Thursday's vote on the length of sports seasons isn't directly related to weather. In fact, New York's climate conditions make it impossible to smoothe out the lengths of seasons unless educators suddenly express a desire to allow games to be played during and after the June Regents exams.


   So here's the stripped down version of what's at stake in Thursday's vote. If the calendar change is approved:

    • Fall sports start dates get pushed back a week but championships stay in the same position on the calendar. The exception is football, in which the championships will slide to the week after Thanksgiving weekend.

    • The winter season's start would also be pushed back by a week without moving championships off their current blocks on the schedule.

    • Spring sports would also start a week later, which is of nearly no consequence to two-thirds of the state since getting out on baseball and softball diamonds on March 10 is often close to impossible.

    The original proposal would have tacked an extra week onto the end of the baseball and softball seasons, but the ad hoc committee that's been working on the topic scrapped that in December and now proposes that spring championships stay on their traditional calendar positions, making baseball and softball less likely to overlap with exam week.

   Football issues: The football committee has a couple of housekeeping items that will be voted on Thursday, each with major implications.

   Firstly, the football committee has proposed new classification cutoffs that would take effect for the 2020 and '21 seasons:

Class Current cutoffs Proposed cutoffs
Class AA 1,025-over 1,025-over
Class A 585-1,024 630-1,024
Class B 355-584 397-629
Class C 230-354 261-396
Class D 229-under 260-under

   The number of schools per class in any sport can be rather fluid, but it's especially true in football these days because eight-man football has gone from zero teams three years ago to possibly 40 this fall.

   The football committee's projection is that Class D would grow from 43 teams to 60 if nothing else changes. If there turns out to be resistance from the Executive Committee on Thursday, it could come from the cutoff number between Classes C and D as the size ratio between the largest and smallest Class D teams gets into uncomfortable territory.

   In fact, this could be one of the closer votes of the day.

   The other football subject on the agenda for a vote is the adoption of the new seven-year regional rotation. It's usually a cut-and-dried subject for any sport in any given year as the


sport committees hash out who'll host first-round and quarterfinal games in the state playoffs each year.

   It's a bit more complicated for football this time around because the committee is tackling the issue of first-round byes necessitated by some sections not having teams in certain classes. It's particularly bad in Class D, where the number of teams in the four Western sections badly dwarfs the number on the east side of New York.

   And with Sections 7 and 10 lacking large schools, there has been a rotating bye in Class AA among Sections 1, 2 and 9. Class A has developed a similar problem for those sections the past two years.

   The impending change in classification cutoffs (whether the above numbers get approved Thursday or a revised version gets a thumbs-up later) could put an end to some byes, but the proposed seven-year rotation would tackle the rest by plugging some losers from sectional finals into the NYSPHSAA quarterfinals the following week.

   If approved, the rotation will kick in this fall with losing Section 3 finalists from Classes AA, A and D going on the road to play the Section 1 champions in the first round.

   In 2020, Section 1's runners-up in AA and A would play at Section 9 while the champions from Sections 1 and 2 would go head-to-head. Section 1 would send an at-large Class D rep to Section 9.

   In 2021, the Section 5 runners-up in Classes AA, A and D would travel to Section 2.

   The proposal came out of the football committee meeting during last fall's championship weekend at the Carrier Dome and has already cleared a hurdle with the Championship Advisory Committee by an 11-0 vote.

   More cutoffs up for votes: The boys lacrosse committee has strived to maintain classes with nearly identical numbers of teams. Continuing down that road would require slight tweaks beginning in 2020:

Class Current cutoffs Proposed cutoffs
Class A 1,050-up 1,060-up
Class B 750-1,049 765-1,059
Class C 425-749 430-764
Class D 424-under 429-under

   The changes to the girls lacrosse cutoffs beginning in 2020 would be only slightly less subtle:

Class Current cutoffs Proposed cutoffs
Class A 1,075-up 1,060-up
Class B 790-1,074 775-1,059
Class C 475-789 465-774
Class D 474-under 464-under

   Boys volleyball is also due to update its cutoffs for the 2020 and '21 seasons and proposes a nearly 50/50 split of its 140 teams by making the Division I BEDS figure 901 and up. That's a fairly significant drop from the current cutoff number of 950 and indicative that the recent growth in the sport has come from smaller schools.

   Tennis topics: The girls tennis committee has run into a bit of a problem getting venues to submit bids to host the state tournament at the end of the fall season. The issue they're running into is that clubs are reluctant to hand over their facilities for an entire weekend.

   As a potential solution, the girls tennis committee is asking the Executive Committee for approval to turn the tournament to a Thursday through Saturday event. That would free up the facility for use by club members for half of Saturday and all day on Sunday, making the venues more likely to offer to host.

   The boys tournament already operates on a Thursday through Saturday schedule.

   Both tennis committees have put forward proposals to add at-large competitors to the draw in order to do away with first-round byes. The boys' proposal calls for a five-year rotation while the girls' rotation extends to nine years.

   Lesser items up for votes: The Executive Committee has two very different financial matters on the agenda.

   The two reps apiece from the 11 sections will be voting on next year's NYSPHSAA budget of $2,846,860.

   They'll also vote on a change to the amateur rule that would allow camp and tournament participants to accept goods and awards with a value of up to $500. The current limit of $250 was established a decade ago and is out of sync with reality since just a pair of sneakers and a jersey at a basketball camp can easily exceed the current limit. Lacrosse players face similar obstacles.

   Also worth noting: As usual, there will be a bunch of discussion items brought forward at Thursday's meeting. Some are merely informational items while others are on their way to becoming formal proposals that might be voted upon later this year or next.

   Since this preview is already dragging on longer than Porky Pig singing "Hey Jude," I'll save most of those topics for a blog later this week with one exception:

   The NYSPHSAA appears poised to take a run at fixing a rule that I haven't liked from Day 1.

   Students who don't qualify for one of the exceptions to the transfer rule have to sit out a year in their sport. While I'm OK with their not being able to play, I think it's unfair that those students can't practice with their team during that year of ineligibility.

   I wrote more about that topic and one quirky development -- the NYSPHSAA apparently passed a rule a long time ago about dealing with incorrectly suspended athletes and then forgot to mention it in its handbook -- in my weekly column for The Press & Sun-Bulletin.

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