Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone have co-authored a letter to Sections VIII and XI, the governing bodies of public school sports in Nassau and Suffolk, respectively, requesting they come to an agreement to hold Long Island championship games in all of the fall high school sports currently in session.
"We are writing this letter to request that Sections VIII and XI work together to develop a solution that ensures Nassau and Suffolk County high school teams participating in the current fall season can compete in the upcoming Long Island championships," the letter reads. "We have recently been informed that Sections VIII and XI have determined that certain high school sports teams will not participate in Long Island championship games due to different playoff schedules in each section. This decision will deny many of our student athletes the chance to participate in the same annual rite of passage as their peers through no fault of their own."
It is no small ask, because the sections are not running on the same schedule for this pandemic-induced spring version of fall sports. The Long Island championship games in most sports — football is an exception — would normally be part of a state championship tournament and, thus, champions in both counties would be crowned at about the same time. The adjustments forced by the coronavirus pandemic not only caused all state championship tournaments to be canceled but also forced the Long Island sections to shoehorn three seasons into six months.
"We do not underestimate the challenges that you face, but urge you to reconsider and work with the respective playoff teams in Nassau and Suffolk," the letter read. "For some, school sports are a key path to promising academic and career opportunities."
With no state tournament as an anchor, each section used its own priorities to make its schedule. In Section XI, all the fall sports are set to conclude by the weekend of April 24-25. In Section VIII, fall sports will run through the weekend of April 30-May 1.
"[The request] is sort of a day late and a dollar short because our schedule has been set for a long time and we don’t want to cut into our spring sports schedules," Section VIII executive director Pat Pizzarelli said. "The student-athletes from the spring sports lost their entire season [in 2020] and we don’t want them to lose any more opportunities by shortening their season. They lost a lot last year."
"We just don’t have the ability at this point to manipulate those schedules," Section XI executive director Tom Combs said. "We don’t want the schedules to overlap. Maybe if they’d come to us two or three weeks ago, there would be a way, but not at this point. The door is open to do it in the spring season."
One of the major factors considered in forming Section XI’s schedule was not to force student-athletes who play more than one sport to have to choose between them. In Section VIII, one of its primary factors was getting in more games. There is a potential overlap week for players who compete in fall sports and completing the minimum practices required for competition in spring sports.
"Nassau and Suffolk are proud to have worked with Sections VIII and XI to make high-risk high school sports a reality and will continue to work in good faith to ensure that all sporting events are consistent with New York State and County guidance," the letter concludes. "Now we are asking Sections VIII and XI to develop a plan in the coming days so that our student athletes and their parents can have confidence that their season will finish on a high note. Our offices stand ready to work with both Sections to develop a suitable schedule and ensure the Long Island championships are accessible to all students."