The Newburgh Free Academy football team had stopped working out at some point during the summer because there was no indication of when the season would start, as the sport was considered high-risk by the New York State Dept. of Health and approval was not expected in time.
“We shut it down because it was so vague,” Newburgh football coach Bill Bianco said. “Up until that point, we were thrilled with what our guys did.”
Some clarity came in on Thursday as Section 9 Executive Director Greg Ransom announced the upcoming fall season will be postponed until March. The section will delay interscholastic athletics until the beginning of the winter season on Nov. 30. The fall season will be played in March and April and the spring season will be played in May and June.
“This decision was based on two main determining factors: the safety of the students and the fact that so many of our Section 9 school districts are conducting all classes via remote learning,” Ransom said in a statement. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Section 9 in conjunction with our school districts will monitor developments and make changes when needed.”
Newburgh boys’ soccer coach Matt Iorlano found the decision disappointing. He said he has a “great team coming back” and the wait for answers was frustrating.
“The only good thing is that we have an answer,” Iorlano said. “We’ve been sitting here and we’re usually working out with the kids in early May. Not being able to do any of that preparation for the fall season, we were wondering what was going to go on.”
The night before, the New York State Athletic Association moved high-risk fall sports, including football, volleyball and competitive cheerleading to a fall season, beginning March 1.
“I thought we realistically could have played in the fall,” Bianco said. “But there being so much uncertainty and the chance of starting and possibly having to stop, maybe the spring isn’t the worst thing.”
The state on Wednesday night announced high-risk sports such as volleyball, football and competitive cheerleading can begin practice on March 1 and postponed the start of spring practice to April 19 to accommodate the Fall 2 season. Despite that, Section, 9’s season dates are yet to be determined.
“We found students are being subjected to having to make decisions,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas said. “There’s an awful lot of concern about the high-risk fall sports. We had to move football and volleyball to March to address those concerns.”
The other sports – boys’ and girls’ soccer, girls’ tennis, boys’ and girls’ cross country and girls’ swimming – were approved by the state to begin on Sept. 21, but the section’s decision pushes them to March with the high-risk fall sports.
“I’m just happy they made a decision either way so we can tell the kids this is when we’re going and we can put a plan together,” Bianco said. “Being in limbo has not been good.”
The state has also postponed the start of Spring season to April 19 to address the overlap caused by playing volleyball and football in March and April and Zayas said there could be a two-week overlap between the seasons, but Section 9 officials could work to limit the amount of overlap.
According to Ransom, offseason workouts may begin on Sept. 21 if they follow the rules established by the NYSPHSAA and the guidelines established by the New York State Dept. of Health.
“You can start training and get yourself ready for the spring, but what are we allowed to do?” Iorlano said. “That’s yet to be said.”