A proposal to return high school football to league, rather than federation, play is on hold after complaints by City of Buffalo Public Schools.
Section VI of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which governs high school athletics in Western New York, backtracked on a vote to return football to its league based alignment as with non-federation sports such as basketball and baseball. On Jan. 3, Section VI voted to return to league-based play for high school football beginning with the upcoming 2020-21 season.
A return to league play would have reinstituted a Niagara Frontier League schedule for the Grand Island Vikings. The schedule would have aligned with leagues in other sports of the NFL, such as soccer, basketball and baseball. The league includes Niagara Falls and Lockport from Class AA; Niagara-Wheatfield, Kenmore East, Kenmore West and North Tonawanda from Class A; and Lewiston-Porter from Class B. (Charter School for Applied Technologies of the NFL does not field a football team.)
The Section VI Executive Committee met to review an appeal filed by the Buffalo Public Schools Jan. 17 relating to the decision to return to league-based play. Section VI Executive Director Timm Slade issued a press release that said the move to league-aligned play was part of “a process that began in October 2019.
“Friday’s appeal marks the first instance where BPS has presented concerns to Section VI regarding this matter. In its appeal, BPS identified a need for ‘clear guidance, feedback and input from critical stakeholders.’ Because scheduling efforts are already underway for the 2020-21 football season, the Section VI Executive Committee voted this morning to suspend any implementation of league-based play in order to allow for further communication, input and guidance with regard to this matter, while alleviating any disruption and uncertainty with regard to the upcoming football season. As a result, Section VI high school football will continue under its federation-based alignment for the 2020-21 football season.
“League-based play is the norm for the overwhelming majority of sports teams within Section VI, and more than 10 of the BPS’s other interscholastic sports teams continue to participate in league-based play within Section VI as they have for many years. There have been long-standing issues raised by Section VI members about the negative impacts of the federation-based alignment for high school football, such as excessive travel time and costs, lack of consistent league rivalries and scheduling difficulties.”
Section VI President Adam Stoltman explained the decision of the Executive Committee by saying, “The decision to return high school football to league-based play was carefully considered and followed a transparent process through which all Section VI members were provided opportunities for input. Returning high school football to league-based play would reduce travel time and costs for the 63 football teams in Section VI, and would also enhance league rivalries, increase the significance of games for playoff eligibility, foster increased attendance and facilitate long-term scheduling. Nonetheless, the section values the perspectives and concerns that have been presented by the Buffalo Public Schools as a continuing Section VI member. The Executive Committee believes that this morning’s action to delay any implementation of the return to league-based play will provide an opportunity to engage in on-going meaningful dialogue with the BPS, as well as the section’s other members, and to ultimately ensure that a return to league-based play addresses the concerns of the BPS while enhancing the opportunities and experiences of the student-athletes who participate in high school football within the section.”