Discussions by Rockland County high school athletic directors about whether to leave Section 1 for Section 9 for the 2014-15 school year have local athletic directors wondering how their schools may be impacted.
“I found out about it on Saturday and it was kind of a shock to me,” said Beacon athletic director Eric Romanino, a member of the Section 1 Executive Committee and the Section 1 wrestling chairman.
“(If we lose Rockland), it weakens the entire section as a whole. We’ve done very well in state tournaments when we include Rockland in the mix. They would be missed. I hope as a section we could do our best to keep the Rockland schools in the section.”
Highland athletic director Pete Ferguson said of the Rockland County schools joining his district in Section 9, “The competition would greatly increase in Section 9. I like the neighboring rivalries we have, though, with Marlboro and New Paltz, and I’m wondering if we would lose that.”
The Rockland County schools affiliated with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association left Section 9 for Section 1 in 1983. Section 1 includes schools from Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties. Section 9 features schools from Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Dutchess counties.
Tappan Zee athletic director Liam Frawley said the 11 Rockland schools are considering this move due to scheduling issues and the coming construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which connects Westchester and Rockland counties.
“With the realignment (within Section 1) five years ago, it’s worked out very well,” Frawley, president of the Conference IV Rockland PSAL and the force behind getting these discussions going last month, said in an interview with The Journal News. “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?”
Frawley told The Journal News that keeping the Rockland leagues intact would be the aim, second in priority only 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.”
If Rockland County were to join Section 9, it may open up discussions among Dutchess County athletic directors. Dutchess County schools — except for Red Hook — competed in Section 1 until the late 1990s when five schools — Rhinebeck, Millbrook, Spackenkill, Webutuck and Pine Plains — left for Section 9. A few years later, Franklin D. Roosevelt left for Section 9, and Dover joined Section 9 for the current school year.
Other Dutchess County districts have debated doing the same in recent years. Beacon submitted the paperwork in 2009, but withdrew the application days before Section 9 officials planned to vote.
“This makes things quite interesting for some of the schools in Dutchess County whether to go into Section 9. We haven’t had any discussions lately, but this makes things interesting,” Romanino said.
Frawley said the school superintendents will have the final vote on any move to Section 9. The schools have a Nov. 30 deadline to apply for the 2014-15 school year. Section 9 will have a vote to determine if the schools will be accepted.
Still very early in the overall process, Marlboro athletic director Jonnah O’Donnell summed it up by saying, “This is something for the executives in our section to decide.”