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High school fall sports start date delayed, fall championships canceled

Lake Placid's Lydia Bullock eyes the ball as she makes a break toward the AuSable Valley net in the semifinal loss to the Patriots in Saranac in October 2018. (News photo — Justin A. Levine)

LATHAM — The officers of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced Thursday, July 16 that they voted to delay the official start date of the fall sports season, cancel the fall regional and state championships and prepare to implement a condensed season schedule in January 2021 if high school sports remain prohibited throughout 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    This decision comes at the recommendation of the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force when they convened as a working group for the third time on July 16.

    “As the state considers reopening, it is unrealistic to believe athletic seasons can start on Aug. 24 as originally scheduled,” NYSPHSAA President Paul Harrica said in a press release. “The priority will continue to be on the educational process and a return to learning in the safest way possible.”

    The decision includes:

    – delaying the fall sports start date until Monday, Sept. 21;

    – canceling the fall regional and state championship events;

    – waiving the seven-day practice rule;

    – maintaining current practice requirements;

    – encouraging geographic scheduling for games and contests;

    – and giving schools the option, if permitted by state officials, to offer off-season conditioning workouts.

    “We recognize this is challenging for everyone, but the decisions made at the state level are based upon data and statewide infection rates in an effort to stop the spread of COVID and reopen responsibly,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas said in a press release. “At this time, Department of Health guidance presented on July 13 prohibits interscholastic athletics across the state. The association will continue to follow state guidance and will work collectively with state officials to ensure high school athletics will start up responsibly in the future. As an association, we must be willing to be flexible and continue to explore all options with students’ safety as our main focus.”

    With regional differences, schools and areas will be impacted differently by the COVID-19 crisis. At the discretion of the NYSPHSAA officers and authorization from state officials, a condensed season plan will be implemented if — by Sept. 21 — the fall sports season is not able to resume this calendar year.

    The condensed plan would entail the following three 10-week sports seasons between January and June, with tentative dates.

    Season 1 (winter sports): Jan. 4 to March 13

    Season 2 (fall sports): March 1 to May 8

    Season 3: (spring sports): April 5 to June 12