Leading off today:
The last time the subject was raised and substantial changes were made, civil war broke out across the state's high school sports community.
It's all but certain to go a whole lot better this time around when the NYSPHSAA Central Committee convenes for three days of meetings at Turning Stone Resort beginning Tuesday.
The topic: What's the future of New York's Federation championships?
For the uninitiated, Federation championships in sports such as basketball, track and field and cross country bring together representatives from the state's four major sanctioning bodies for high school sports -- the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Public School Athletic Association, Catholic High School Athletic Association and Association of Independent Schools.
Basketball and cross country are examples of championships that take place after the NYSPHSAA has crowned its own sets of titlists. In sports such as wrestling and swimming, however, the NYSPHSAA and Federation championships are conducted simultaneously, with NYSPHSAA sectional winners competing from start to finish mixed in alongside competitors from the other organizations.
"While attending the 2016 NYSPHSAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships," NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas wrote recently, "I became aware that a NYSPHSAA student-athlete could realistically place 5th in their race and still be crowned a "NYSPHSAA State Champion" because of the format of the meet."
Costs and scheduling constraints have been at the heart of that arrangement over the years. The work-around has been to award two sets of medals in each event -- one for Federation place-winners and one for NYSPHSAA-only results. It falls somewhere between complicated and awkward when officials have to sift results from the semifinals in other to find fifth- and sixth-place finishers to fill out the NYSPHSAA podium. Sometimes a NYSPHSAA champion actually finishes significantly behind the leaders even when placing in the top three.
"If a kid finishes fifth (overall) and we call them a champ, are we honoring them in an appropriate way?" Zayas asked in a phone interview last week.
"We just revised our tennis format back in May. Now our kids will get the chance to earn recognition without first being knocked out by an athlete from another association."
"I see value in the Federation competition, but let's honor our kids the way we should."
If the idea of reassessing the Federation's role in the overall picture sounds familiar, it should. In the mid-1990s, the NYSPHSAA made a clumsy move to separate from the more than 150 schools from the three other organizations. The 22-member Executive Committee voted in January 1994 to limit its season-ending events in five sports to NYSPHSAA schools while leaving the door open to Federation championships that in several cases did not fit comfortably into tight schedules between the end of NYSPHSAA competition and the start of national events in track, swimming and wrestling.
Sectional coordinators in wrestling and track were nearly unanimous in their opposition, but the changes were pushed through anyway. Elected officials began to get involved and protests accelerated. The opposition reached a pinnacle when all but one of the NYSPHSAA wrestling champions crowned on Saturday night refused to participate in Federation competition the following day.
(Fun trivia: The one wrestler who did opt to compete was Unatego's Nick Muzashvili, who as a recent refuge from the war-ravaged Soviet republic of Georgia was non-plussed by the scholastic brand of discord.)
Zayas shut down the comparison between the 1994 vote and the new examination before the questioner could even finish asking; the idea of separate NYSPHSAA championships in track, swimming and the like is a non-starter unless a suitable way to also accommodate a Federation presence can also be found.
To that end, the NYSPHSAA Strategic Plan, a proposed road map for the next five years of governance, includes an initiative which states: "Evaluate NYSPHSAA's participation in NYS Federation events for maximum benefit to NYSPHSAA student-athletes/teams."
The strategic plan will be presented by NYSPHSAA President Steve Broadwell and is expected to be approved by the Central Committee this week. Other components of the strategic plan include:
• Examining the philosophy of mergers and combined teams.
• Exploring the ideal of mandatory certification for athletic directors.