Football, volleyball, competitive cheer delayed until March 1, 2021, NYSPHSAA announces

The high school football season has been officially delayed until spring amid continued concerns about COVID-19 and its potential spread among students in sports deemed high-risk.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced Wednesday that volleyball and competitive cheer would also be delayed until spring, while other low and moderate risk fall sports are set to begin Sept. 21.

“We’ve spent two days speaking with nearly 500 athletic directors across the state and it’s clear that administering high-risk fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic presents a significant challenge for our member schools,” said Robert Zayas, the NYSPHSAA executive director.

The announcement stated that the revised season to accommodate those sports will be known as “Fall Sports Season II.” Practices can officially begin March 1, 2021.

A new date for the start of spring sports is now April 19, 2021, which represents the first official practice date. The original date had been March 15.

A football season this fall seemed unlikely after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Aug. 24 that while some high school sports could resume Sept. 21, football and volleyball were not included. Permitted sports to resume include include tennis, soccer, cross country, field hockey and swimming. They will be required to follow COVID-19 protocols established by the state Department of Health.

Julie Bergman, the NYSPHSAA president, said in a statement that it would be unrealistic to host football, volleyball and competitive cheer this fall.

“This continues to be the most challenging situation educators have ever addressed,” she said. “I, along with my fellow officers, believe the participation experiences for football, volleyball and competitive cheer athletes will be more beneficial in the spring than in the fall.”

Riverhead High School is already facing a year without sports after two failed budget votes. In a tied vote Tuesday night, the Riverhead Board of Education rejected a proposal that would have saved high school clubs, music and sports through tapping into reserve funds.

The Shoreham-Wading River football team would have opened this season as the defending Class IV Long Island champions after winning the fourth title in program history last fall.

NYSPHSAA released a “Return to Interscholastic Athletics” report Sept. 4 as a recommended resource on how schools may consider resuming sports. Those guidelines had said teams could begin practicing in football, volleyball and competitive cheer, but there was no clear sense if those practices would ever lead to a game. The guidelines had said: “No games or scrimmages are permitted until authorization is granted by state officials or
Dec. 31.”

For fall sports that begin this month, there will be no regional or state championships. Teams must play within their section or league up until Oct. 19, when games outside the league or section are permitted.

The winter sports season is still scheduled to begin Nov. 30.