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Monday, July 28, 2014: NYSPHSAA Central Committee meeting preview

   Leading off today: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last week that will limit full-contact practices in high school football to two 90-minute sessions per week during the season and prohibit any contact during the offseason.

   The law, which also benches players for at least a week after suffering concussion-type symptoms, will take effect next year. At present, all practices can be full-contact. Texas already has a law similar to what California will enact.

   Recent studies have revealed that about one-third of high school players said they endured concussion-like symptoms but didn't seek treatment, MaxPreps reported. And a 2013 study by the Institute of Medicine found that high school players sustained concussions at double the rate of their college counterparts.

   "This is about protecting kids, as well as parents' peace of mind," state Assemblyman Ken Cooley told the San Francisco Chronicle.

   While New York's concussion management law went into effect in July 2012, the subject of practice limits only really showed up on the collective radar screen of many administrators last year with a brief presentation at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's annual Central Committee summer meeting outside Rochester.

   When that committee convenes Tuesday in Lake Placid for three days of meetings, members will be briefed on current rules and proposed regulations in a number of states. The NFL, NCAA and many youth football organizations already have guidelines governing contact, and California will hardly be the last state to adopt a law for high schools.

   If the subject becomes fodder for debate by elected officials in Albany, the NYSPHSAA would like to be ready. As such, this week's binder of meeting materials instructs the Central Committee that the NYSPHSAA "would like to see some type of recommendation" from the safety and football committees for the 2015 season.

   "I'd like for us to make the decision rather than put it in someone else's hands," Robert Zayas, executive director of the state's largest governing body for high school sports, said recently.

   Hand-in-hand with the discussion of standards for contact, the committee will hear some news that will please budget-conscious school boards and superintendents.

   The NYSPHSAA has struck a deal to resell up to 87,500 baseline examinations from ImPACT, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine-affiliated outfit whose test is the most widely used and most scientifically supported computerized concussion evaluation system. The baseline test generally costs $4 per athlete for smaller schools and the price only comes down to $1.60 to $2 for even most of the largest school districts, but buying in volume will allow the NYSPHSAA to charge its schools just $1 per test. Athletic directors have already snapped up about 40,000 of the tests to be used on their athletes in the upcoming year.

   Post-injury evaluations are available for $4 per test.

   Schedule showdown: Sections 3 and 4 will be making the case to restore games to the basketball season beginning in 2015-16, but a couple of phone calls I made last week to people who have a good feel for which way the wind in blowing don't make me optimistic that an increase from the current 18 games will be OK'd.

   From the sound of it, there are at least four of the state's 11 sections certain to vote against the proposed restoration and only three that seem sure to support.

   "We want to give each student-athlete to participate 20 times in equal numbers, whether its soccer, field hockey or basketball," John Rathbun, Section 3's executive director, told The Post-Standard. "The winter season's a little longer and we want to balance that off. Spring you have baseball and softball and they play 20 games. There is consistency. We're looking to balance those off."

   Not surprisingly, money is the issue, though I've still never football site

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seen a definitive set of numbers laying out how much the cuts instituted in the aftermath of the 2008 recession supposedly save school districts across the state.

   One idea that's been floated is to "pay for" two more varsity games by cutting two games from the junior varsity schedule. Considering that the varsity and JVs often travel together in sports like basketball and volleyball, I'm not sure the dollars-and-cents difference would be enough to move the needle.

   More from the agenda: Gary VanDerzee of Section 2 is expected to be appointed to succeed Dick Cerone, who is retiring after 33 years as the state football chairman.


    • The state office's revenue sharing with the 11 sections will remain unchanged at a total of $42,512, matching the figure from its debut a year ago.

    • A proposed revision would give sections more flexibility in the penalty for athletes who compete under an assumed name and also finally prescribe punishment for the coach -- suspension for the remainder of the season, or longer if the section deems appropriate.

    • The mixed competition quagmire, which sees a significant number of boys competing on girls volleyball teams because their school doesn't offer the male version of the sport, will likely continue, though a proposal that will be voted on starts to tighten the approval process.

    The key question school administrators and sections ask when a boy wants to play on a girls team is whether there will be a "significant adverse effect." To that end, they will now ask five questions in each instance:

    (1) Will the athlete be "advantaged" by the rules of the game? (2) Will participation result in a student of the opposite gender being displaced from the team? (3) Will the participation affect the opportunity of the other students to participate in such competition? (4) Does the student exceed the physical standards of the sport they wish to participate as per NYSED guidelines? (5) Has the student participated in the sport previously on an all-male team?

    The NYSPHSAA's concern has been that administrators often have different interpretations of "significant adverse effect." Their argument is that approving the guidelines (note that they are not a hard and fast rule, which would require more State Education Department input), which were developed by an ad hoc committee, will create more consistency.

    A superintendent could respond "yes" to all five questions and still allow the student to participate, but he or she also now has a better rationale to deny the athlete's request and trigger the same sort of appeals process invoked in other eligibility issues.

   More online: You can view the full meeting packet on the NYSPHSAA's website.

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