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Proposal to add games to high school sports calendar gains momentum

The recession was in full swing in 2009, and school districts were strapped for money. That's when the number of athletic games, meets and contests were cut for public high school sports in New York.

It was a way to save money, and possibly some programs.

But now some think it's time to add back those games. Representatives from Section VI in Western New York brought the issue to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's October meeting, and it is to be brought up for discussion at the group's February meeting, with possible action later in the year.

"Any time we can give kids more opportunities to participate, we're gaining momentum," said Robert Zayas, executive director of the association.

The proposal got another push from the Athletic Committee of the state Council of Superintendents, which sent a letter to Zayas in supporting the conversations and process to bringing back the regular season contests. Depew Superintendent Jeffrey R. Rabey is on the committee and signed the letter.

Rabey said the idea in 2009 was a temporary reduction. There were estimates as much as $10 million statewide could be saved.

"I think initially we did," he said.

There is no official figure on how much was saved, but it wasn't as much as some estimates, Rabey said. There was savings on the cost of officials for a home event, and transportation to an away contest.

"Maybe it was more optics than it was actually providing savings," Zayas said

And in recent years, the state association has added sports opportunities, such as unified basketball and bowling, wrestling dual meet championships and competitive cheerleading, as well as additional classifications for lacrosse, bowling and golf, and more participants at the championships for indoor and outdoor track and field, wrestling, and swimming and diving.

"One of the frustrating things we have seen," Rabey said, "we’re increasing all these other things, and we still haven't brought back the games."

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Sports with 24 contests, such as baseball and softball, were reduced to 20; sports with 20 contests, such as basketball, were reduced to 18; and sports with 18 contests, such as soccer were reduced to 16. Wrestling was reduced to 20 matches and football was reduced from 10 games to nine. Only basketball has seen games reinstated.

A three-sport senior student athlete could have lost 32 contests during his or her high school athletic career, according to Rabey's letter.

Participation in contests helps keep student athletes interested and engaged in the sport, said Aubrey Lloyd, athletic director for Buffalo Public Schools.

"Our kids, they want to get out there and play," Lloyd said. "We should add back the games if we're going to continue to add more sports."

More games would give coaches the opportunity to play more non-league contests, which might offer better competition.

"When we play Catholic schools, they're not tied to this," Lloyd said.

And because private schools do not have to follow this rule and can play in more contests, they may be more attractive to an athlete. More contests provide more opportunities for scouts to look at the athletes.

"Some families have to make the decision, 'Is my child going to get better exposure going to a private school?' " Rabey said.

Zayas, of the state association, said some sections in the state play two fewer contests than the number laid down in 2009.

"The issue is sometimes geographically based, sometime based on the size of the school," he said. "If they can afford to bring back the game, they would like the opportunity to do that."

"There is not total agreement across the State of New York," said Timm Slade, executive director of Section VI.

He favors the decisions being made on the local level.

"I think our member schools would like to have the opportunity to determine that at a school level," Slade said.

If the association votes in July, it would most likely go into effect for the 2020-21 season.

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