October 24, 2021

Section III announces fall plan

High school sports

Photo provided by New York State Public High School Athletic Association

EAST SYRACUSE — Section III of the NYSPHSAA announced Friday that fall sports will proceed as anticipated based on guidance from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, State Department of Health and NYSPHSAA officials.

Practices may begin for low and moderate risk fall sports on September 21 and higher risk fall sports may begin March 1, 2021. The decision was rendered by the Executive Committee early Friday morning. The committee’s decision is a result of reviewing feedback provided by member schools.

“We’ve received feedback this week from the majority of our 104 member schools. More specifically, 97 schools responded with 58 percent indicating they are ready to begin fall sports, and 42 percent requesting a delay of fall sports until after January 1, 2021,” Section III executive director John Rathburn said. “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. We continue to stay committed to providing support to our member schools and the student-athletes we serve.”

The plan, approved Friday by the Section III executive committee, emphasizes no sectional tournament competition for Fall I or Fall II seasons. Rathburn and his staff, along with Section III representatives of the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force, league presidents, athletic administrators, sport coordinators, sport committees and chief school officer committee members contributed to the plan.

The guiding principles grounded the decision-making process were:

• Ensure the health and safety of all student-athletes.

• Re-engage all student-athletes as soon as possible for their social, emotional and mental well-being.

• Maximize participation across all sports and all student-athletes.

• Keep competition as local as possible for as long as possible.

• Maintain the ability to pivot to back-up plans when deemed necessary.

“We understand and recognize the issues of equity and access this decision will create for schools and leagues within our section,” Section III president Joseph DeBarbieri said. “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.”

The Section III executive committee and executive director will continue to monitor additional guidance from the Governor’s Office, State Department of Health, State Education Department, and the NYSPHSAA as circumstances change.