Saturday, January 31, 2009

NYSPHSAA makes cuts official

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association OK'd a number of cost-cutting measures that are effective immediately. You can read the full press release here.

This story will run in The Record on Monday, but I'll post it on here too because of its newsworthiness.

William Montgomery
The Record

It’s official. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association voted Saturday on a number of cost-cutting proposals and the biggest of them all, a mandatory decrease in the maximum number of regular season games permitted, was approved. In layman’s terms, high school teams across the state will be forced to compete in fewer games than had been allowed before.

Sports such as baseball and softball, which once allowed for 24 games, will be cut back to 20. Those that typically played 20 will now play 18; 18 game-seasons are now cut to 16. Section II football, however, is likely to maintain a seven-game regular season with two playoff or crossover games allotted for all teams.

In other money-saving moves, the NYSPHSAA agreed to support conference calls and video conferencing for association meetings, use officials from the host section in regional contests and eliminated mandatory attendance of coaches and administrators at NYSPHSAA workshops.

“The rationale supporting these incremental reductions will have a significant impact for our member schools,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Nina Van Erk wrote in the association’s press release. “For example, the savings realized by schools may act to protect lower level programs such as modified from being eliminated.”

Not so fast, says Gary VanDerzee, the Section II football Coordinator and former Athletic Director and current head football coach at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School. By his estimate, a school in R-C-S’s position would cut 82 contests affecting 700 student athletes to save between $9,000 and $10,000 – 0.025% of the school budget.

Times are tough for high schools, as evidenced by the Emma Willard School announcing last week that it will decline to renew the contracts of some of their 140 employees by July 1 as a means to save $1.5 million over the next two years. By cutting games, however, especially the boys and girls basketball games that rake in money on admissions, the NYSPHSAA may actually hurt schools that use that money to fund other sports. And it certainly will not make a dent on the academic side of the budget, says VanDerzee.

“It won’t save one teacher’s job,” he said. “It’s strictly a face-saving measure on the part of the administrators that don’t want to make a hard decision and just want to pass the buck on to everybody else.”

Booster clubs that raise money primarily through 50-50 raffles and concession stand sales will see a decrease in profits if teams lose home games. Small towns and villages that rally around their young athletes also figure to lose goodwill in the community and positive budget votes with fewer games played at high school facilities.

“An absolute, total abomination,” VanDerzee said. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction by people who are afraid to tell people in their own district to make cuts. They’re hiding behind the NYSPHSAA.”

Solutions for increasing revenue or cutting costs elsewhere are varied. Baseball and softball teams, which typically begin play at 4 p.m. on weekday afternoons, find it hardly worth their while to collect admissions to games that are weakly attended because many parents are still at work. Spring sports fields also lack the controlled access of a basketball court or a fenced-in football field with one entry point.

School districts in heavily-populated areas could modify their non-league schedule to cut down on travel costs, but teams from rural areas will always have long distances to drive.

“The softball coaches considered playing each other once in the league and using the non-league games to play teams that were five to ten minutes away,” said John Cipperly, coach of the girls soccer and softball teams at Lansingburgh High School. “But that might not work out so well for teams like Cobleskill. There aren’t very many local teams to play Cobleskill and it wouldn’t be a big impact for them.”

VanDerzee staunchly believes – and with the hundreds of supportive emails he has received, clearly others do too - that if a district wants to decrease the number of games played to save money, it should be on their terms and not mandated by the NYSPHSAA.

Student-athletes, of course, are the biggest victims of the NYSPHSAA’s rash vote this weekend, especially those who will not go on to play in college or spend their summers playing on travel teams or wowing scouts in AAU tournaments.

“Some coaches use early season non-league games to test out JV players and see which ones can play at the varsity level,” said Al Roy, the Section II baseball Coordinator. “Late in the season, maybe the coach will reward a player that comes to practice every day, someone who doesn’t get a lot of playing time. Without the extra games, those types of kids won’t get the same opportunities.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It certainly does seem awfully knee-jerk. I would be very interested to see if the NYSPHSAA has any hard data on the amount of money these decisions will save. According to the press release, "The Executive Committee has taken action to assist schools, leagues, conferences, sections and NYSPHSAA to reduce costs related to the interscholastic athletic program." Nowhere do they say anything about assisting student-athletes. So, again, adults speak and student-athletes suffer.

February 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again the high ups make these "genius" decisions that hurt the kids. It's great that the NYSPHSAA thinks they are saving the state by making these cuts, but really all they are thinking about is making themselves look good. What happened to the idea of not purchasing section issued uniforms for wrestling, cross country and track state championships? That would save a lot of money. Think about this, last year, roughly 1200 students took place in the cross country state championships. They get just t-shirts, but still, 1200 t-shirts with the logo printed on them can't be that cheap. Then wrestling has the singlets as well as warm ups I believe. Instead of cutting some luxury like those that kids wouldn't miss anyway, they take away things that the kids cherish more, games. Hope the NYSPHSAA is proud....I think maybe you could be compared to the big bully on the playground taking the other children's lunch money.

February 2, 2009 at 3:47 PM 
Blogger Editor said...

Coach VanDerzee makes a legitimate point when he says that this takes the heat off of some administrators who don't want to make tough choices and takes control from local schools. The reality is, however, that if some changes are not made by all areas of school programs those cuts will be mandated by State Ed or other entities.

I would like to see Coach Vanderzee's numbers. He said that cutting 82 sports contests would save only between $9,000 and $10,000. That amounts to about $122per game. The cost of officials for most contests, at least at the varsity level, must be at or near that. How about busing, staff and other costs?

Maybe if the section took some steps to cut travel costs others would not step in and make decisions. More sectional contests should be contested at central locations, instead of transporting athletes and coaches long distances.

There are certainly places to cut, without depriving athletes.

February 4, 2009 at 5:18 PM 

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