Start of fall high school sports season pushed back to late September

The earliest high school sports will resume in New York is Sept. 21, according to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

The decision to delay the start of the fall season amid continued concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and uncertainty surrounding schools resuming was announced Thursday following recommendations from the organization’s COVID-19 Task Force. NYSPHSAA officers voted to delay the fall season and also cancel the 2020 regional and state championships.

Plans are also in the works for a condensed season schedule that would begin in January if the fall season is unable to start by late September or are interrupted by school closings.

“As the state considers reopening, it is unrealistic to believe athletic seasons can start on Aug. 24 as originally scheduled,” NYSPHSAA president Paul Harrica said in a statement. “The priority will continue to be on the
educational process and a return to learning in the safest way possible.”

The pandemic already wiped out the spring sports season at the end of 2019-20 academic year when the coronavirus began to spread in New York at the beginning of March.

A potential condensed season could also be implemented that would see winter sports start first under Season I. The 10-week season for basketball, bowling, wrestling, competitive cheer, boys swimming and indoor track and field would run from Jan. 4-March 13. (Dates are all tentative at this point).

There’s a possibility wrestling and competitive cheer could be moved to Season II or III.

Season II would run from March 1-May 8 and would feature fall sports: football, cross country, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and girls swimming.

Season III would run from April 5 to June 12 and feature spring sports: baseball, softball, golf, lacrosse and outdoor track and field. Both boys and girls tennis would also both be in Season III. Girls tennis is typically a fall sport.

Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA’ executive director, said the latest Department of Health guidance presented on July 13 prohibits interscholastic athletics across the state. He said NYSPHSAA will continue to follow state guidance and work with state officials to get high school sports running again.

“We recognize this is challenging for everyone, but the decisions made at the state level are based upon data and statewide infection rates all in an effort to stop the spread of COVID and reopen responsibly,” he said in a statement.

The decision reached Thursday also includes the following guidelines:

• Waive seven-day practice rule.

• Maintain current practice requirements.

• Encourage geographic scheduling for games and contests.

• Schools would have the option, if permitted by state officials, to offer offseason conditioning workouts.

A full report is expected to be released later this week, NYSPHSAA said.