By Roger Rubin
The hope for this spring season is eternal.
There might even be some reason for optimism.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has suspended school attendance — and therefore high school sports — until April 29. While that might not allow enough time for a full soup-to-nuts spring season — non-conference games, a regular season and playoffs — it would be enough for something close.
In telephone interviews Tuesday, Section XI (Suffolk) executive director Tom Combs and Section VIII (Nassau) executive director Pat Pizzarelli said that date comes with leeway for a modified spring season.
"If we can come back in the beginning of May, we are fine,” Combs said. “Even the middle of May is OK. I don’t know all the answers, but I’d say if we come back June 1, we’re done.”
Spring sports won’t necessarily begin when Cuomo reopens the state's schools, but they will have to be open before sports can commence.
"It’s a waiting game now and you try to plan out for different scenarios,” Pizzarelli said. “The state championships were scheduled to go through June. Baseball has doubleheaders, so you could play four games a week for four weeks and that’s 16 [conference] games.”
Combs said Section XI has plans for four different start dates beginning with one on April 29, the current date Cuomo has in place. But it won’t be a matter of simply returning to school and starting to play. Spring sports require at least six practices before competition begins; in baseball, 10 practices are required. Combs said the rules are about “the health of our student-athletes.”
“Regardless of whether a team had started practice when schools were closed or how much the student-athletes have been working out on their own, it’s going to have been more than a month and we have to start from scratch,” Pizzarelli said.
What might a modified season look like? In baseball, for example, Suffolk Class AA teams play a three-game series against league opponents for an 18-game regular season. The modification might look like two games per league foe for a 12-game regular season.
The fate of the state public school championships also is in limbo, and a restart of sports on Long Island doesn’t mean there will be state tournaments. If state tournaments are not held, Nassau and Suffolk could conduct their regular season and playoffs through the second half of June. Pizzarelli said he would not be opposed to making the Long Island baseball and softball championships into series instead of a single game.
“[Combs] and I are in constant contact,” he said. “We would talk about that if the situation presented itself.”
Other things would have to be resolved if high school sports return, chief among them whether spectators would be permitted.
“We’d like to have them, ideally, because families want to see their kids play and so do the students at the schools,” Combs said. “The governor’s office could dictate policy. We may need social distancing in the stands. Or maybe there won’t be spectators. Either way, I suspect everyone would understand — everyone wants a spring sports season.”