The New York State High Public High School Athletic Association announced the cancellation of its 2020 spring state championships because of the COVID-19 pandemic Monday, April 27, in a statement on its website.
It’s not all bad news for area athletes, however, as the cancellation of the state championships leaves open the possibility for spring sports to be played, just without the ultimate goal of state gold.
“Unfortunately, with the continued impact of the COVID-19 crisis, hosting the 2020 state championships is no longer feasible (time factor, facility and venue availability, etc,)” NYSPHSAA president Paul Harrica was quoted as saying in the statement. “Canceling the remaining winter state championships in March was challenging and the cancellation of our spring sports championships today is equally disappointing.”
The announcement came the day of NYSPHSAA’s self-imposed deadline to make a decision regarding its spring championships. The cancellation affects the boys and girls track and field, boys and girls lacrosse, boys tennis, baseball, softball and golf championships. Those championships were slated to take place between June 4 and June 13.
The state championships would already have lacked a pair of sections as Section VIII and Section XI canceled their spring seasons Tuesday, April 21.
Ben Nelson, the Section IV Interscholastic Sports Coordinator, indicated that a cancellation on a section-wide level is not immediately likely, though section championships may be difficult to fit in as the window in which to compete continues to shrink.
“We’ve had league conference calls and we are going to have a few more this week. The emphasis is on league play,” Nelson said. “If we can get anything in at all, if the schools open up by the 15th or the 18th, then the leagues are in agreement to do whatever they can league-wise.”
Schools will remain closed until at least May 15 as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY on PAUSE strategy of containing the coronavirus. Nelson noted that even if the schools reopened May 15, teams would need at least six days to practice before they could compete, and would need at least six regular-season contests before postseason play could begin.
As a result, Nelson said squeezing in section tournaments before the academic year ends in mid-June would be difficult, with the possible exception of girls golf because the sport has a limited number of regular-season contests.
While the potential cancellation of section tournaments would eliminate yet another fixture in the seasonal sports calendar, it would open up more time for leagues to play regular-season games or league championships. Eliminating section tournaments also dovetails with the section’s goal of getting as many students as much time to play as possible.
“We’re here to support the leagues and we’re not saying don’t do sectionals, we just don’t know if we can get them in,” Nelson said. “We just want kids to play, especially the seniors to give them closure for their four years.”
Nelson said that some Section IV leagues are putting together tentative schedules, but that any progress is based on the students returning to school. Until then, even regular seasons are on hold, with still more problems to overcome once school buildings reopen.
“As a league, I don’t think we are planning anything until we hear anything directional from Cuomo about May 15,” Jim Adair, commissioner of the Delaware League, said. “At that point whether it’s a school or league decision, we haven’t even gotten to that point yet.”
Nelson also said that he hoped Cuomo would indicate the possibility of students returning to schools in the week or weeks leading up to May 15 to allow administrators time to prepare for athletes to begin practicing.
“The top thing is getting kids acclimated in school, and even if we did get back and that option was there, individual schools may say they want their kids to do something else, anyway,” Adair said. “People aren’t going to want to rock the boat, and there’s still a lot of stuff in limbo and up in the air. I wouldn’t be surprised if different schools have different ideas.”