Unfortunately for local sports fans, the proposed Sept. 21 start date for low- and moderate-risk high school sports is looking less likely to bring about the start of anything at all.
The Midstate Athletic Conference and Delaware League announced plans to suspend or postpone their fall interscholastic sports seasons Monday, Sept. 14, joining the Southern Tier Athletic Conference and the Interscholastic Athletic Conference in a pair of decisions that all but seal the season’s postponement for all of Section IV.
The announcements leave the Tri-Valley League as the only league in the section to not make a formal announcement as of Monday night, though Section IV Executive Director Ben Nelson told The Daily Star on Monday that he had received communication that the league had postponed the season.
Nelson also said the section was sending out ballots to each district for a vote on a proposal that would postpone the section’s fall season to a March start. He said an official announcement was unlikely to arrive before Wednesday.
A media release from the MAC said that the conference had voted Friday, Sept. 11, to postpone all sports until Jan. 4, 2021.
“While this was a difficult decision, the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and fans was paramount,” the release said.
“Everybody is just really concerned about reopening safely and what that entails, and the time constraints of getting a season in in the fall and what it would even look like,” said Unatego Athletic Director and Section IV Secretary Matt Hafele.
Charlotte Valley Superintendent and Delaware League President Jamie Harter struck a similar tone. A letter from Harter, written following a meeting with superintendents and athletic directors from all 11 schools in the Delaware League, said the league “regrettably suspended the fall sports season until further notice.”
“We’re disappointed. We’re all disappointed,” Harter told The Daily Star. “We want to do things for kids and there wasn’t one person in the meeting who wanted to do that. It’s heartbreaking. But we’re living in a different reality now and we’re looking to open up the season in the spring. We just can’t in good faith do it right now.”
The MAC and DL decisions follow similar announcements the IAC and STAC made over the weekend. The STAC announced Sunday it would be postponing all sports until Jan. 4. The IAC announced similar plans while acknowledging that the winter season may possibly begin Nov. 30, the earliest start date permitted by NYSPHSAA.
The Daily Star’s coverage area does not include any teams in the IAC. The area’s lone STAC team, Oneonta, had already announced its plans to postpone its fall season to March, but had not yet announced any policy regarding the winter start date.
“I think it takes away a little bit of the trepidation or angst about ‘OK we did this, and now in our section, is anyone our size or above going to do the same thing?’” Oneonta Athletic Director Jerry Mackey said, also expressing his frustration at the conditions that caused the district to deem postponement necessary.
“It’s nice to be able to go into this Jan. 4 to end of June adventure with the 16 other schools we have chosen to be a member with.”
While Monday’s decisions do not officially postpone the fall sports season in Section IV, they do make a section-wide postponement very likely. A simple majority of 36 schools in the 70-district section would be enough to adopt or dismiss the proposal, but with four of the section’s five leagues already officially forming majorities in favor of postponement, the numbers are not in favor of a fall season.
Even in a scenario where the TVL, which had not officially made a statement as of Monday night, has all of its districts vote to not postpone, playing this fall looks very unlikely. A few late changes of heart in the other four leagues, even with a theoretically unanimous TVL in favor of playing, would likely not be enough to form a majority due to the strength of majorities described in other leagues.
STAC Executive Director Kevin McGoff called voting to postpone a “vast majority,” while Hafele described a “strong majority” in the MAC.
Asked about how the numbers stacked up and the likelihood of the fall season occurring in Section IV, Nelson said, “I don’t see it.”