ONEONTA, N.Y. - The Oneonta City School District will not be playing fall sports, at least not yet, this academic year.
The district announced, Thursday, that it will be postponing Yellow Jackets fall sports, but stressed it was not a cancellation and that it is planning on finding a way to play at some point later in the year.
Hang in there ‘Jackets athletes. Unfortunately we are announcing the postponement (NOT Cancellation) of Fall sports. We know many of you have put in tremendous work and we will await word from our league & section as we lobby for the preserving of all 3 HS seasons later in the yr
— Oneonta Athletics (@Jacketspride) September 3, 2020
"We are postponing fall sports," said Jerry Mackey, Oneonta Athletic Director. "We are not cancelling fall sports, we are planning on having a fall sports season."
Mackey said that there were many factors that lead to the decision to delay the school's participation in athletics. Oneonta is located on the far east of its section and league geography, about 20-30 miles+ from many of its league opponents, making travel requirements difficult while trying to stay within the immediate region.
There was also the issue of cramming 20 athletes, coaches, and a driver into buses for extended periods of time.
In addition, Mackey said that the school isn't entirely comfortable with the state requiring students to remain 12-feet apart in physical education classes only to be allowed in closer proximity after school to play their respective sport.
Another issue is the current spike in COVID-19 cases in the city, in large part due to the outbreak on the campus of SUNY Oneonta that forced the closure of campus for the remainder of the semester.
"SUNY Oneonta did not cause this," said Mackey. "It may have sped up [our decision] some, but I don't want to lay this on their doorstep. Our decision was going to be the same regardless."
Oneonta teams play in Section IV and the Southern Tier Athletic Conference (STAC).
Initially, the school was hoping to wait until more teams from the section and their league had a better idea of what their plans would be. They were also hoping to wait for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) to release its guidance on how to return to interscholastic athletics, expected Friday.
However, with the events of the past couple of weeks adding to already growing uncertainty about the feasibility of being able to hold fall sports by the September 21 anticipated start date, school officials did what they felt was best for Oneonta given the current circumstances.
"We didn't feel comfortable putting kids, parents and coaches and support staff in that position," said Mackey. "So rather than just kicking the can down the line and let these parents and kids think [we'll start] September 21, no, we are going to get out in front of it."
School officials know not all people will agree with the decision, but are hoping those who disagree will understand the reasoning.
"We believe in full transparency here and we will take the heat," Mackey said. "We will be happy to discuss this with anybody who is upset with us and I get how emotional sports is. We hear them and when we get the chance to put kids out there safely, we absolutely plan to."
Following their announcement, another Section IV and STAC school, Norwich, a rival of the Yellow Jackets' announce that it, too, would be postponing sports in the fall.
Mackey said that if not enough schools in the league or section decide to follow suit and move fall sports to the spring, Oneonta would likely put together its own, independent schedule for its sports teams.
School officials are hoping to be able to start fall sports in March, but there could be multiple plans on the table.
They will re-visit the subject in October or early November to see where the current landscape is at as it applies to the winter season, scheduled to start on Nov. 30, and beyond.