by Dave Clark
New York State Public High School Athletic Association
With no athletic contests this past week, I thought it would be the perfect time to explain how New York runs its high school athletic programs. Many people have asked me how it is organized and what does it mean when I mention Section III as opposed to Center State Conference. Hopefully, I can clear that up in this article.
New York State is divided into 11 sections for its athletics. For example, Section II is in the Capital District, Section IV is south of there including the Binghamton Metro District, Section V is the Rochester area, Section VI is the Western New York and Buffalo area, Section VII includes Indian Lake, Section X is Northern New York with Sections I, IX and XI comprising downstate New York and Long Island. Old Forge belongs to Section III and more will be said of this section later in the column.
All of these sections are governed by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA). Located in Latham, they set up the rules and regulations and guidelines by which all member schools must abide, or suffer the consequences. It’s like the NCAA in college.
The NYSPHSAA Inc., is a non-profit, voluntary educational service organization composed of public, parochial and private schools dedicated to providing equitable and safe competition for the students of it member schools. Membership is open to secondary schools providing interschool athletic activities for boys and girls in grades 7-12.
Now, let’s get to Section III, just one of the 11 in the state. Section III is the largest region in the state covering the Utica/Rome area, the Syracuse area and Watertown and all the neighboring schools in each area. There are 108 school districts in Section III with 23,000 student athletes taking part this past year. There are six competitive leagues that take part in Section III and the league that Old Forge belongs to, the Center State Conference, is the largest of these leagues with 26 schools and many more on the waiting list hoping to be accepted into the league. There are a total of 23 sports offered over the full school year with most of them being played by both boys and girls.
Old Forge competes in the CSC in all sports played except skiing. Old Forge, being the only school in the league that fields a Nordic and alpine ski team, naturally has no league ski meets. Most of their meets are simply against the other four or five teams that do ski in Section III. In fact, Holland Patent is the only other school in the entire section that fields both a Nordic and alpine ski team.
In all of the other sports, they first compete in league competition. That lasts for the better part of the season. If a team qualifies with enough victories, it can go on to section III competition if it chooses. Old Forge, a Class D school, naturally competes against all of the other Class D schools who have also qualified to compete. The winner of the Section III competition goes on to regional play with hopes of making it to the states final four. In terms of competition, basketball is the most competitive across the state with over 100 schools playing basketball in Section III alone. With only four or five schools skiing in Section III, that is at the bottom.
To me, the most impressive thing that Old Forge does is in the winter and spring seasons. In the winter season, the Town of Webb Schools, a small Class D school, fields three sports for the girls; basketball, volleyball and skiing. The basketball and volleyball teams then have to compete against the league with their athletes split among three sports and their competition only fielding one sport. It is absolutely amazing that they compete so well. In the spring, it’s the boys that split their athletes among golf, track and baseball. The girls split between track and softball with two girls also on the golf team. These teams have not only been competitive but champions. How long that can continue with a decreasing enrollment is anyone’s guess.
While all of these sports are being played, it is the NYSPHSAA that sets up all of the rules of the game. When they can start practice, when they must be finished, how many contests they can play, who is eligible to play, etc. If you break the rules, you must forfeit your victories. It may sound tough, but it is a necessary body that keeps the schools in line with the other schools.