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State Catholic High School Athletic Association to delay start of fall sports

State Catholic High School Athletic Association to delay start of fall sports

Canisius quarterback Tyler Baker

Canisius quarterback Tyler Baker runs up the middle for a short gain, beating Cardinal Hayes' Jaylen Young. 

The New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association will pause its fall sports schedule until Sept. 21, and will not have regional or state championships for fall sports.

The NYSCHSAA includes the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association, and Monsignor Martin Executive Director Pete Schneider confirmed Monday to The News that the start of the fall sports season will be delayed for the league. The decision impacts 10 fall sports.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen once kids start coming back to school,” Schneider told The News. “That’s the biggest reason. It’s a health concern, as to students and the spread of Covid-19. That’s why the public schools are doing the same thing. Everybody wants the kids back on the playing field. It’s just a matter of following the direction from your state government, and doing it safely.”

Practices for fall sports in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association were originally scheduled to begin Aug. 24. Instead, practices are now scheduled begin nearly a month later, and competition in fall sports will begin after each sport completes a mandatory number of practice days particular to that sport. 

The decision to postpone the start date was made Monday morning on a conference call, with input from state government guidelines and from administrators who make up the four dioceses in the NYSCHSAA.

Rich Robbins, the Canisius football coach, informed his team of the decision. The Crusaders are the defending state champions, and will return 15 starters from the 2019 team. 

"Staying positive, it’s super-important," Robbins said. "The world’s been full of a lot of negatives lately, and for grown people, it’s been tough on us. For teenagers, with what they’re trying to process, the kids need wins. They need smiles on their faces. We’re looking forward to giving them state championship rings. We talk about staying positive and when we get to play, we’ll be blessed to play football games and have fun.

"We’ll still get to play for a Monsignor Martin championship and have a good season, and that’s what we’re focused on."

Brian Anken, the athletic director at St. Joe's, said he was not surprised by the NYSCHSAA's decision to delay the start of fall sports.

"We’re going to err on the side of safety," Anken said. "People who make these decisions have a lot more data and research when they’re making these decisions.

"It’s disappointing, for the kids, we have to delay this. At this point, I’d rather have a delay with some hope that come September, things are trending in the right direction and we can get on the field, rather than take that hope away."

The NYSCHSAA’s decision follows suit with the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association’s decision to delay the fall sports season. The NYSPHSAA announced its decision Thursday; regional and state championship events have been canceled.

Like Anken, Barbara Rooney, the athletic director at Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, was not surprised by the NYSCHSAA's decision.  

"We knew that the (NYSCHSAA) would meet Monday and we’d meet right after, and it was likely we would go along with what they voted on," Rooney said. 

"We want our student-athletes to be back and competing, but we want them to be safe. Safety is the most important thing and I think all of us will be adjusting. If we all come back to school in person, whatever shape that takes, there’s going to be a lot of adjustment in the fall. This gives us a few weeks to get the education part under our belts and get our girls back here, and safely introduce the extracurriculars."

The decision not to field fall championships is disappointing to Anken, but he provided some perspective. 

"A conversation that’s resonating here with the guys is that we’d love to play for championships and we think we have teams that are going to compete for championships," Anken said. "It’s crazy to think we have to embrace that it’s going away, but we have to be excited about any sports.

"We have to brace ourselves for the fact that this may be all we get. But I have to remind guys, there’s spring sports (teams and athletes) that would love to have a season. We need to embrace whatever we can get. As tough as no championships might be, the opportunity to get on the field again is something they need to enjoy."

Eric Geisler will be a senior at Canisius, where he plays volleyball and basketball. After he saw last week that the NYSPHSAA delayed the start of fall sports, he knew a similar decision by the NYSCHSAA was imminent. 

"It’s a mix of sadness and anticipation," Geisler said. "What if this goes on and sports are moved to the spring, in a condensed schedule? How do you readjust?

"I have mixed feelings on that. I’d still want to play if volleyball was going to be canceled, but I wonder if the 10 weeks window would be enough of a window.

"If the interest is if all the sports get played, it makes sense, but I play basketball and I wouldn’t want (volleyball) to be cut short."

Geisler was on Canisius' basketball team that prepared to play in the NYSCHSAA Class A championship game in March when the boys and girls basketball tournaments were canceled because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Everything shut down in the middle of the week, before the state title game," Geisler said. "We never got to really enjoy the previous game being our last, so it’s about being grateful you have another opportunity."

The NYSCHSAA has not made a decision on the entirety of the fall sports season, but Schneider said that if the fall sports season is canceled, CHSAA will use a three-pronged approach to fielding sports in the spring, similar to the contingency plan announced Thursday by NYSPHSAA. Should schools not resume in the fall, NYSPHSAA would field three 10-week seasons beginning in January with winter sports, followed by traditional fall sports and then spring sports.

"The primary goal has to be the reopening of schools, and this plan allows for that to happen while we still have a fall season," Robbins said. "New Yorkers have done better than most, and we’ve put ourselves in a position to have a fall season. Virginia and California have already changed their fall football plans.

"Even if we have to play in the spring, the New York plan still gives us two good chances for a season."

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College/high school sports enterprise reporter

I'm a college/high school sports enterprise reporter at The Buffalo News. I've worked in sports journalism since 1997 and I have covered everything from college football to the Stanley Cup playoffs, high school sports and the NCAA Tournament.

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