New York State health and athletics officials have begun drafting guidance for high schools to conduct their winter sports seasons during the coronavirus pandemic. That guidance is expected to be released in early November before winter sports teams may begin practices leading up to competition in January.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was asked at a Thursday news conference about guidance for interscholastic winter sports. Though he didn’t have an answer prepared, State Budget Director and Advisor Robert Mujica did.
"We're looking at it now — right in the context of what the school infection rates are — so we should have them by November," Mujica said. "(That) was the plan, like the beginning of November."
The state issued guidance for playing low-contact fall sports — which the governor named as tennis, cross country, soccer, swimming and field hockey — back in August. On Long Island only the nine Catholic schools and seven parochial schools have chosen to follow that guidance and are playing sports now.
Section VIII and Section XI, the governing bodies for public schools sports in Nassau and Suffolk respectively, both opted against holding any athletic competition during the fall season. Each has opted to play all three of its sports seasons in a compressed format between January and June. Each season would last approximately nine weeks with winter sports played in January and February, fall sports in March and April and spring sports in May and June.
State public schools are permitted to begin winter sports practices on Nov. 30, however Long Island’s public schools won’t start winter sports practices until Jan. 4. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association typically requires six team practices (10 for wrestling) before a school may play a scrimmage, however it extended that number to 10 on all sports for those schools that chose to play in the fall.
Section VIII executive director Pat Pizzarelli said Nassau high schools will only play a league schedule and the hope is to have county championship tournaments and hold Long Island championship games against the Suffolk champions. The first Section VIII girls basketball games are scheduled for Jan. 12 with boys basketball games beginning the next day.
Section XI executive director Tom Combs said via text message that league schedules are still being finalized, but that Suffolk high schools will be permitted to schedule non-conference games.