The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing school officials to implement major changes to the upcoming high school sports season, including football potentially being played in May.

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On Thursday, the Officers of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), voted to delay the official start date of the Fall 2020 sports season, cancel the Fall 2020 Regional and State Championships while preparing to implement a condensed season schedule in January 2021 if high school sports remain prohibited throughout 2020 due to COVID-19.

“As the state considers reopening, it is unrealistic to believe athletic seasons can start on August 24th as originally scheduled,” NYSPHSAA President Paul Harrica said in a press release. “The priority will continue to be on the educational process and a return to learning in the safest way possible.”

The decision came from a recommendation of the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force. The decision includes:

  • Delay Fall sports start date until Monday, September 21st (NYSPHSAA PAUSE)
  • Cancel Fall Regional and State Championship events
  • Waive seven-day practice rule
  • Maintain current practice requirements
  • Encourage geographic scheduling for games & contests
  • Schools would have the option, if permitted by state officials, to offer off-season conditioning workouts.

“We recognize this is challenging for everyone, but the decisions made at the State level are based upon data and statewide infection rates all in an effort to stop the spread of COVID and reopen responsibly,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said. “At this time, Department of Health guidance presented on July 13th prohibits interscholastic athletics across the state. The Association will continue to follow state guidance and will work collectively with State officials to ensure high school athletics will start up responsibly in the future. As an association, we must be willing to be flexible and continue to explore all options with students’ safety as our main focus.

The Condensed Season plan would entail the following, with the dates tentative:

Season I (Winter Sports)

  • Dates: Jan. 4-Mar. 13
  • Sports: basketball (girls & boys), bowling (girls & boys), gymnastics, ice hockey (girls & boys), indoor track & field (girls & boys), skiing (girls & boys), swimming (boys), *wrestling, *competitive cheer.
  • * Because of the high-risk nature of wrestling and competitive cheer, sports may have to be moved to Season II or season III.

Season II (Fall Sports)

  • Dates: Mar. 1-May 8
  • Sports: football, cross country (girls & boys), field hockey, soccer (girls & boys), swimming (girls), volleyball (girls & boys), Unified bowling.
  • Weather will have an impact on outdoor sports in some parts of the state in March and potentially early April. Girls Tennis moved to Season III.

Season III (Spring Sports)

  • Dates: Apr. 5-Jun. 12 (Week 40-49) 10 Weeks *Note: tentative dates
  • Sports: baseball, softball, golf (girls & boys), lacrosse (girls & boys), tennis (girls & boys), outdoor track & field (girls & boys), Unified basketball.

"IF needed, overlap in potential condensed season format would be a concern; dates are tentative. Season 3 could end in late June & consideration for 8/9 week seasons, rather than 10 is a possibility; overlap would then be reduced. We will focus on what is best for kids," Zayas wrote on Twitter while sharing the changes.