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Friday, Oct. 9, 2015: NYSPHSAA recommends rebidding basketball tournament

   Leading off today: What looked like a victory for Glens Falls less than two weeks ago in its effort to keep the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's boys basketball tournament has turned into controversy leading to a renewed -- albeit unlikely -- possibility that the event could move to Binghamton in 2017.

   The turmoil may lead the organization's governing body to discard the recommendation to stay in Glens Falls, abruptly change bidding procedures and re-start the process for awarding the 2017-19 tournaments, the New York State Sportswriters Association has learned via several interviews this week.

   "It's a challenging situation but we have time to improve it and correct it," Robert Zayas, executive director of the NYSPHSAA, said by telephone Thursday. "Let's make a decision that's in the best interest of everyone."

   Zayas, and Steve Broadwell, president of the NYSPHSAA, emailed members of the Executive Committee on Tuesday to notify them of "unexpected procedural technicalities, which should be addressed to ensure a fair and equitable process" after complaints emerged that financial specifics cited by representatives of the Glens Falls Civic Center in a presentation to the boys basketball committee differed from what they had submitted before the Aug. 28 bid deadline.

   Multiple sources said that the GFCC presentation to the basketball committee Sept. 25 shaved approximately $15,000 off its arena rental figure, a change that brought it down to the same territory -- approximately $20,000 -- as the Times Union Center in Albany and the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton in their bids to host for three years beginning in 2017. That led to concerns about how the committee should proceed, but Zayas said he pointed out such a revision was not prohibited under procedures put in place in November 2014 and might be expected because of a four-week gap between the deadline to bid and the committee meeting.

   Later that day, the basketball committee cast eight votes for Glens Falls, three for Binghamton and none for Albany. Zayas' staff also supported the Glens Falls bid. However, at least two members of the basketball committee reported to administrators in their respective sections that they had misgivings about what had transpired.

   If all had gone according to plan, the next steps should have been ratification by the NYSPHSAA Championship Advisory Committee on Sept. 30 and the Executive Committee on Oct. 22. But the process was jolted three days after the basketball committee meeting when concerns about the Sept. 25 vote were raised at a regularly scheduled conference call with the executive directors of the state's 11 sections.

   That led to Zayas and Broadwell writing to the Executive Committee on Tuesday to concede the process "does not address modification of bids prior to the final recommendation of the Committee and staff. Recently, one of the bidders was able to further reduce the rental fee due to additional monies secured after submission of the bid but before the presentation to the Sports Committee and NYSPHSAA Staff."

   Zayas and Broadwell offered a plan to the Executive Committee, beginning with a recommendation that the 22 voting members (two from each section) take no action on the basketball site selection at its Oct. 22 meeting.

   Instead, they suggested that the group amend the process to require sealed bids that are not opened until the NYSPHSAA staff and the relevant sport committee convene their meeting, and eliminate in-person presentations by bidders. Bidders would make a representative available via teleconference in the event that the sport committee has questions.

   At present, Zayas and several staff members examine bid material in advance to prepare packets for the sport committee members at the meeting.

   The final recommendation is to re-bid the boys basketball site selection under the revised procedures. Presumably, the do-over would conclude with a vote by the Executive Committee during its scheduled Jan. 29 conference call.

   The Executive Committee, which manages the NYSPHSAA between meetings of the Central Committee, may adopt the policy revision plan or opt to sign off on the recommendation to keep the event in Glens Falls, which has hosted since 1981. It could also call an audible and overrule everyone by awarding the contract to Binghamton.

   Analysis: What happens next, assuming that the Executive Committee concurs that the basketball selection process needs a do-over?

   When all is said and done, it's likely Glens Falls retains the tournament through 2019 anyway. There's more than three decades of history on their side, the girls tournament is staying put at nearby Hudson Valley Community College and the Civic Center's final proposal was in fact

competitive enough to withstand the challengers both financially and in terms of promised improvements to the arena.

   Glens Falls collected eight of the 11 votes Sept. 25, and it's unlikely three committee members would flip barring a drastic change of circumstances. I've attended numerous final four weekends there in the past three decades, so I understand many of the intangibles that work in favor of Glens Falls, right down to how some basketball committee members as well as representatives on the Executive Committee appreciate the convenience of attending the New York State Athletic Administrators Association meetings in Saratoga Springs and/or the BCANY Hall of Fame inductions at Heritage Hall in the Civic Center the same weekend as the boys and girls tournaments.

   Considerations along those lines arguably amount to some support for Glens Falls before the vote counting even begins, unless ...

   Back in the spring, Buffalo's HarborCenter, a new jewel in the Pegula sports empire, succeeded in winning the NYSPHSAA hockey tournament, which had been as firmly entrenched in Utica as boys basketball is in Glens Falls. The upgrade in amenities at the Buffalo facility as opposed to Utica is indisputable, but as much as anything it was money that tipped the scale.

   Zayas and his staff, who have a responsibility to conduct championships in a number of sports that lose money or barely break even, went against the hockey committee by recommending Buffalo over Utica. It's hard to pin down the precise benefit of having local teams playing in the tournament, but if Section 6 puts a couple teams on the ice in Buffalo like Section 3 often did in Utica, the NYSPHSAA probably walks away with an extra $20,000 per year it can put towards tennis, skiing and other sports.

   So how might Binghamton win Round 2?

   Well, they do know how to put a plan together. Veteran members of the basketball committee generally agree that Binghamton has put together some very impressive bids in past attempts to bring the tournament to the Southern Tier, and the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic, the best annual holiday showcase in Upstate New York, has been nicely run over the years.

   That gets them into the conversation alongside Glens Falls, but it's still going to be money that speaks loudest. In short, Binghamton needs to do something almost as dramatic as what the HarborCenter did in hockey by finding a way to look $10,000 or $15,000 a year better than Glens Falls.

   There aren't a lot of deep pockets in the Southern Tier that would be willing and able to step up like that. So, the alternative quite bluntly is to make the other guy look $10,000 or $15,000 worse.

   Boys basketball makes a ton of money -- as in $160,000 last March -- for the NYSPHSAA, but the Glens Falls ledger has benefited lately by having Section 2 teams play in (and win) three finals in each of the past three years.

   Binghamton has nothing to lose. If I'm them, I make the case that the Section 2 run of success on the court the past three years is unprecedented and unsustainable, and that the safer bet for the NYSPHSAA is that the novelty of bringing the tournament to Broome County can attract new fans from Central and Western New York (and Pennsylvania) even without a slew of Section 4 teams participating.

   Can it work? Probably not as Glens Falls touts first-class work by its army of volunteers and local businesses, but this still amounts to the best chance Binghamton has had in awhile. They might as well go all in and see if the committee responds.

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