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No state championships for spring high school sports in New York

NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas in 2019.

NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas in 2019. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The New York Public High School Athletic Association has decided to cancel all state championship tournaments for 2021 spring sports in a vote by its Executive Committee on Wednesday.

Additionally, a proposal to change the enrollment numbers that determine classifications — one that would have dramatically impacted Long Island high schools — was voted down.

"[We] really looked at how can we maximize participation for students," NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas told Newsday. "When you look at the condensed season already, and the desire of our schools to play as many games as they can, it became very apparent that we had to make the unfortunate decision to cancel the spring championships."

Due to coronavirus pandemic considerations, spring sports in New York can begin practice and play in mid-April, at the earliest this school year. It means that the seasons will be starting more than a month later than usual and programs would be losing four-to-five weeks from a typical season. Rather than have a schedule where only a small number of schools are playing at the end in a state tournament, the measure seeks to allow more programs to play longer regular seasons.

On Long Island there still may be county championships in spring sports and there could even be a window for Long Island championships.

Zayas said he was aware of a range of complaints made through social media about the state tournament cancellations and said that the decisions by the committee were not based on funding or predictions about where infection rates will be in June.

"It’s not about losing money and it’s not about ignoring science . . . those two factors were never part of the discussion when it came to canceling state championships," he said. "We want to maximize participation. If, for example, a baseball team could get 17 games rather than 12 or 13 games, then we think that’s a benefit to all kids on that team."

The classification numbers proposed — for five-classification sports — would have reshaped the high school sports landscape on Long Island. Among the proposed changes was shifting the line between Class AA and Class A from the current 965 enrollment to 800. It was defeated by a vote of 20-2, Zayas said.

If adopted, for example, Nassau County would have seen about a dozen Class A schools in boys and girls basketball elevated to Class AA.

The committee does feel that the enrollment numbers for classifications do need to be addressed. It created an ad hoc committee to study how best to keep each classification competitive and will report findings and recommendations at the committee’s meeting in May.

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