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Section III opts to proceed with low, moderate-risk fall sports season

In a section-wide vote, most responding school districts decided to move forward with a fall season for low and moderate-risk sports. Section III will not hold any sectional postseason events.

Posted: Sep 11, 2020 8:36 PM

WKTV - Section III Athletics of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), which encompasses Central New York, announced that it will proceed with low and moderate-risk fall sports as intended beginning Sept. 21, Friday.

The section held a vote this week with ballots going out to the 105 member school districts, nearly 30 of them within the NEWSChannel 2 viewing area. Schools submitted their ballots on Thursday, signed by the districts' Superintendent, Athletic Director, and High School Principal.

According to Section III Executive Director John Rathbun, 97 school districts responded to the vote with 58% indicating they are for proceeding with the fall sports season, while 42% requested a delay of sports until after Jan. 1, 2021.

Following a meeting of the Section III Executive Committee, reviewing the feedback of member schools, it was decided that the section would proceed with the season.

"We understand the challenges many schools face and the difficult decisions superintendents, principals, and athletic administrators are being required to make to keep student-athletes, spectators, and sport officials safe," said Rathbun. "We continue to stay committed to providing support to our member schools and the student-athletes we serve."

This decision applies only to low and moderate-risk fall sports. High-risk sports (football, volleyball, and competitive cheer) will begin its "Fall Sports Season II" on March 1, 2021, as directed by the NYSPHSAA earlier in the week.

Along with the decision to proceed, Section III announced its interscholastic athletics plan for the fall season.

The season will last for seven weeks with a Nov. 14 end date for any approved sports. There will be no fall sectional tournaments in either the traditional fall or Fall II seasons, but leagues will have the opportunity to hold its own league postseason tournament or extend regular season play.

NYSPHSAA had already previously cancelled all fall sports state championship events.

With that, league play will become the priority for teams this year.

Section III has also recommended that travel for non-league or out-of-section contests be limited and only in compliance with NYS Department of Health guidance.

School districts are to use their own discretion to decide on holding sub-varsity (JV, modified) level athletics for younger athletes, and are urged to create intramural athletic opportunities for students if interscholastic athletics are not carried out.

Section III cited financial and budgetary concerns for its decision not to hold a sectional tournament in any sport.

Should schools individually determine a fall sports season would not be feasible, Section III said it would support the decision not to host in the fall and would work with those member schools to delay their traditional fall sports to the Fall II season in March.

"We understand and recognize the issues of equity and access this decision will create for schools and leagues within our section," said Joseph DeBarbieri, Section III President. "For a variety of legitimate and logistical reasons, some school districts may opt out of our fall sports season. In those cases, we respect the individual district decision."

Locally, Cooperstown Central School District announced its plan, on Wednesday, to cancel its fall sports season, with Remsen and Waterville both deciding to indefinitely delay their athletics until further notice on Friday.

The Section III staff, its representative on the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force, league presidents and athletic administrators, sport coordinators and committees, and Chief School Officer committee members were all involved in the decision making process.

The winter sports season is set to begin on Nov. 30, further determinations regarding that season will be made at a later date.

Section III said it will continue to monitor additional guidance from the Governor's Office, NYS Department of Health, NYS Education Department and NYSPHSAA as circumstances change in order to make future decisions.

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