To no one’s surpise on Monday morning, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced that spring high school sports championships would be cancelled.
That includes boys and girls track and field, boys tennis, softball, baseball, golf, and both boys and girls lacrosse state championships that were originally scheduled to be held between June 4 through June 13.
“Unfortunately, with the continued impact of the COVID-19 crisis, hosting the spring 2020 state championships is no longer feasible (time factor, facility and venue availability, etc.)” said Paul Harrica, NYSPHSAA’s President.
The question now is what happens to each section’s regular season.
Both sections in Long Island have already shut down all sports for the school year. The remaining nine sections that are yet to cancel can each decide for themselves what to do.
Section Five executive director Kathy Hoyt says they are waiting as long as they can.
There has been no deadline determined for when a decision must be made. Very likely, that decision will be made for Section Five by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
At the moment, schools in New York State are closed until May 18th. If they are any further delayed, Hoyt admitted it would be hard to imagine sports being played.
“I don’t see how you say otherwise,” she said.
Hoyt suspects the next update on schools from Cuomo will be one of three possibilities: Open on May 18th, open earlier or closed until September. The last choice would make the decision on sports academic.
If schools do re-open by May 18th, that would create a window for sports to be played. Hoyt says she is in constant contact with athletic directors and sport coordinators around the section to be prepared for that possibility.
Originally, the spring sports season was scheduled to end with the final state championship on June 13th. The window to play could be extended, but almost certainly not into July. There are legal issues in the way, even if coaches and players were willing to keep playing.
“Coaches contracts would have to be renegotiated,” Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director said. “There’s also the issue of grounds crew or facilities staff or custodians or security. All of those people would have to be aware of the situation and be willing to work past the end date that was originally scheduled.”
Zayas added that he has not heard of any school district interested in playing sports after the end of June.
The window would be further shrunk by practice requirements. Zayas said he would recommend standard preseason rules be followed. That means ten practices for a baseball team before playing any games and six practices for all the other spring sports.
“We have to give the student athletes a period of time where they have to re-engage in practice,” Hoyt said.
Even if school continues on May 18th, no baseball team could play a game until the 28th. That would allow for about a month of playing time. In a shortened season, Hoyt said playing regular season games would take priority over an attempt to hold a sectional playoff.
“Regular season gets the most amount of kids involved on a regular basis. Once you get into postseason, then it diminishes the level of involvement,” Hoyt said. “The more kids that can participate more times, that’s the focus of most everybody at this time.”
At this point, Zayas and the state governing body have no more official say over the outcome of the 2020 spring sports season. They will be heavily involved in assisting each section, should they decide to begin.
“Is there going to be guidance or restriction on social distancing? What about transportation? What about handshakes?” Zayas said. “I want to make sure… if athletics are part of that re-opening process that coaches and athletic directors have all the information they need.”
Hoyt acknowledges that, while her office is enveloped by the hope of playing a spring season, there are many other parts of student life that are also important.
“Prom, awards nights, band concerts, all that stuff. This is a big transition, IF we go back to school,” she said.
So far, 38 states have canceled their high school spring sports. In the northeast, that includes Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Hoyt is hoping, at least, some parts of New York State don’t have to follow suit.
“If we can get in anything versus nothing, we’ll do that.”