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More on today's Prep Talk column: 'NYSPHSAA deserves to be benched'

Before you read this (blog), read this:

* My column today, headlined, "NYSPHSAA deserves to be benched."

Then you should probably read this: 

* The story which (as far as I know) broke the news that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association wants its sections to discuss "placing a two-year moratorium on all state championships" and "curtailing the number of state championships."

Then, because if you are like me and can not comprehend that actually happening, you should read this so you can see it actually printed on an actual document:

* The NYSPHSAA's "Items To Be Brought Back To The Sections For Discussion" memo.

That document is accessible via the Section VI web site's page regarding the agenda for next Wednesday's Athletic Council meeting (March 21). For web site fans or agenda fans, from the main Section VI site you go to the "General Information" menu at the top of the Section VI page and drag down to "Athletic Council Meetings," which takes you to this year's schedule.

* * * 

Often times when you write stories, stuff ends up on the cutting room floor. There's only so much space. Thank goodness for blogs :-).

Some more thoughts regarding the NYSPHSAA that I couldn't jam into today's column: 

* If you're thinking that this isn't the first time the NYSPHSAA has come up with a cost-cutting idea that didn't exactly go over well, you are correct

For the 2009-10 season, the NYSPHSAA enacted measures aimed at helping the NYSPHSAA and its districts reduce costs. In December 2010, it extended these measures through this school year.

Most measures were fairly benign. The one that got the most attention -- and which continues to get attention -- was the reduction of games in all sports.

The NYSPHSAA thought it was best for it to decide that ALL districts in the state should have to reduce their games. It would seem to make sense that any school could limit its games on its own, but by putting this measure into effect, the NYSPHSAA has stunted the growth of its own sports.

Fewer games for teams, fewer games for entire sports, limit the growth of those high school programs from a district-by-district perspective and from a public school-vs.-private school perspective. By definition, the NYSPHSAA has limited the opportunities of its own student-athletes.

It was a decision made by administrators to benefit administrators (and we're not talking ADs here, school boards and superintendents). Why make more tough decisions about which programs to cut when the NYSPHSAA will help make those decisions for you? It was a cop-out that hurt the student-athletes, coaches and ADs, the very people that the NYSPHSAA is supposed to benefit (the idea of cutting state championships is a similar move).

This point comes up in our live chats year after year: If you chose to attend a private school in Western New York, you can play up to 24 basketball games in a regular season. If you go to a public school (member of Section VI of the NYSPHSAA), you are limited to 18. Even if you played just two varsity seasons, you'd play 12 more games. That hurts local teams on two levels -- their teams don't get the opportunity to compete as much as private schools, and its programs could potentially lose athletically-geared students to private schools which have more opportunities to compete. 

Here's a good breakdown of the measures, including the reduction of games broken down by sport, thanks to the Albany Times-Union's blog.  

Here is a great blog about the topic written by New York State Sportswriters President John Moriello in Dec. 2010, before the game reductions were extended.

The reduction of games has been fought vigorously by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York and other groups.

Sidenote: I'm not exactly sure when it extended the measures for the 2012-13 season (I sure looked), but I did find that they indeed have been. It's in the NYSPHSAA handbook (on Pages 110-111).

To summarize, the NYSPHSAA's most 

* * *

The fact that this started with Section XI (Suffolk County) talking about reducing its own costs by not having to travel, or even by hosting state events in its own section, is maddening on two levels. 

(Sidenote: I love Section XI. I'm a native of Section XI. But things are just out of whack here.)

1. Section XI has hosted state championships before, including recently. It hosted the cross country meet in 2002 and 2008. Neighboring Section VIII (Nassau County) has hosted wrestling (2006), boys swimming (2009, 2011) and girls swimming (2003, 04, 07). 

That's a decent amount of state championships on Long Island, and I'm fairly certain it is about the same amount of state championships that Section VI has hosted in this end of the state -- ECC-City has been solidly in the rotation for swim meets; wrestling hasn't been here since 2004, cross country hasn't been here since 2001. I believe Section VI has hosted bowling and softball in the last decade.

So, there is no real grounds for Section XI to complain, even with its geographical location.

2. Ten times as maddening as the original premise is NYSPHSAA's reaction to it. Most state championships are centrally located. A look at the state sites for the last decade (which is what I just did via google; they have to have records of this stuff) shows that things have been moved around fairly well (which is a credit to the NYSPHSAA). The NYSPHSAA should have talked about cost-cutting measures (which it is doing) rather than putting on the table the Draconian, self-mutilating step of discussing taking state championships away. 

It makes absolutely no sense. 

* * * 

In my column I made reference to the tail wagging the dog in the NYSPHSAA, especially regarding the classification of private schools.

Of the 20 teams competing in the boys basketball final four in Glens Falls, six of them are private schools. Three of them are in small-school divisions, two in B and one in D. 

On the girls side, there are two girls basketball teams in the final four, and both are in small school divisions, one in B and one in C.

Some Sections are vigilant in how private schools -- which do not have the geographic restrictions that public schools do -- are classified. For example, Section II (Albany area) and III (Syracuse area) are historically more vigilant than Section V (Rochester area). Section IX (Ulster and surrounding counties) moved up the Coleman Catholic girls from D to C this year, and Coleman made it back to the final four. 

This year, Section V had a private school win its Class D boys basketball crown for the seventh straight year. Class D is the smallest classification in the state, one comprised overwhelmingly of rural public schools. Class D public schools couldn't be more different than private schools located in large districts like this year's champion, Notre Dame (located in Batavia, a Class A district) and two-time Class D state champion Charles Finney (located in the Rochester suburb of Penfield, a Class AA district). Coleman Catholic is located in Kingston (a Class AA district) and attracts players from beyond.

The point of this is that the NYSPHSAA allows individual sections to classify their own teams, and when different sections take different approaches, it results in inconsistencies that take away from the quality of the state championships. In my view, it hurts the small public schools of the state (which greatly outnumber private schools, yet private schools continue to have success in small-school divisions -- doesn't that tell you something?). At worst, the incorrect classification of private schools in small-school divisions corrupts the entire championship tournament. 

I've been banging this drum for a while (here's a link to a 2008 blog post), although no one seems to be tuning in.

Shows you how much clout I have :-) 

* * * 

If anyone wants to agree, disagree or raise more points or counterpoints, I'll hold our weekly live chat tonight at 9.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

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