I started hearing rumors from some coaches in the know late last week that the possibility of all 11 Rockland county schools moving to Section 9 is being discussed. Rockland made the move from Section 9 to Section 1 in 1983, and have combined with teams from Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties to form one of the most competitive sections in the state. Now, with plans in place for a new Tappan Zee Bridge, there is concern about traveling logistics and increased costs. That’s the main reason that the change is being discussed, but it’s impossible not to ponder how this would affect competition in both sections.
I’m in the process of getting reaction from coaches around the county, which will be featured in a story in Wednesday’s paper. Here is my colleague Brian Heyman’s story breaking the news:
The Rockland schools all picked up and moved their entire athletic programs from Section 9 to Section 1 for regular-season competition in 1983. Now, 30 years later, the Rockland athletic directors are having preliminary informal discussions and doing fact-finding about the possibility of picking up and moving back to Section 9 for the 2014-15 school year.
“Obviously, we want to make sure that we’re efficient with any decisions that we make,” said Tappan Zee athletic director Liam Frawley, the president of the Conference IV Rockland PSAL and the person who was the force behind getting these discussions going last month. “No one wants to add to any budgets. But, yes, we’re discussing the possibilities.
“We’re looking how it would affect each of the 11 schools, how it would affect us financially, travel, competitive, the whole nine yards. … We want to see where we fit. Is (Section) 9 a fit or not?”
There’s a Nov. 30 deadline to apply to Section 9 for the following school year, and then Section 9 would have to vote whether to accept the Rockland schools. Frawley said the main reasons behind this investigative process have been scheduling issues and the coming construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
“With the realignment (within Section 1) five years ago, it’s worked out very well,” Frawley said. “But there have been some problems that have come up that many of us have faced in Rockland with regard to the bridge. The upcoming construction makes it even more of a potential deterrent for getting opponents. … Right now, Friday games are problematic, but we know that. We live with that. If it’s going to be a 24/7 thing for five years, it could be a little more of an issue, and for other teams wanting to come play us.
“Filling our schedules and getting crossovers has been an issue in recent years, so we’ve had discussions amongst ourselves with Section 1. … Is doing another realignment a possibility? Is mixing up the conferences another possibility? That becomes a little (problematic) because the original realignment was based on superintendent concerns regarding traveling and saving money. So why would we go back to that?”
Nanuet was the first to make a move from Section 9 to Section 1 back in the 1970s, but it only came over in football at that time. After the Rockland schools came over in all sports for that 1983-84 regular season, they jumped into the Section 1 postseason pool as well the following school year.
Section 9 encompasses Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties, and some of Dutchess County. But the Ulster-Sullivan teams and the Orange teams mostly play in their own leagues during the regular season.
“It’s really postseason when they see each other,” Frawley said. “ … It would kind of defeat the purpose if we were going up to FDR or Kingston or Saugerties for a league game.”
Frawley said keeping the Rockland leagues intact would be the aim, second only in priority to fiscal responsibility.
“Theoretically if we’re able to stay in our own league, that helps, because right now, the majority of our schedule is played in county,” Frawley said. “We would hope that wouldn’t change. … Then your crossovers become your crossovers whether your crossovers are with Section 9 teams or Section 1 teams.”
Joe Casarella, the AD at North Rockland since 1983 and its former longtime football coach, said he couldn’t say if he approved of moving until he looks at what’s best for all his school’s athletic programs. He thinks it would be about the same financially.
“The other thing is, if I don’t want to go or Nanuet doesn’t want to go or some other school doesn’t want to go, are we going to split?” Casarella said. “I don’t know. I’d like to keep our Rockland County geography big school. I think playing (Clarkstown) North, South, Suffern, East Ramapo is fun.”
Hamilton athletic director Rob Pollok, who’s a former South athlete, can see the view from both sides of the Hudson.
“We’d hate to see the Rockland schools leave us,” Pollok said, “but at the same time, I understand better than anybody that that bridge is going to be a nightmare when the construction time comes. I think it’s worth tossing around.”
Chuck Scarpulla, the Sleepy Hollow athletic director and former longtime athletic director for the East Ramapo schools, said: “If it’s beneficial for them for educational purposes, then it’s fine with me. We’ll still have 50-plus teams over here, so we’ll have plenty. I’m sure we could still get some games with people over there.”
Frawley said that the ADs “want to watch our bottom line, but we also want to ensure the interscholastic program is strong for our kids and our community.” He said the superintendents would have the final say on any move.
“At the end of the day, maybe it’s nothing; maybe we’re right back in Section 1 and all is well,” Frawley said. “Maybe we’re in 9 and all is well. It’s more of at least asking the questions now.”
REMINDER: I’ll be hosting a live LoHud Wrestling chat tonight at 7:30! Don’t miss out!