By Mike Zummo
Assemblyman Colin Schmitt put out a call from Monroe’s Smith Clove Park on Thursday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker, and Interim Commissioner of Education Betty A. Rosa to allow high-risk sports to be played in New York.
Schmitt said he planned to introduce legislation to compel the Education Dept. and Dept. of Health to allow all interscholastic sports to be cleared to play this year using proper COVID-19 safety protocols.
Schmitt sent a letter on Jan. 11 to Cuomo asking for high-risk sports to be given authorization. New York State Public High School Association Executive Director Robert Zayas had previously said there was no timeline for getting high-risk sports authorized.
Low- and moderate-risk sports have been authorized to practice and compete since September, although Section 9 postponed its fall season to March and April. Indoor track began in Marlboro on Jan. 12 and all other low- and moderate-risk sports in the area was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
While high-risk sports, which include football, volleyball, competitive cheerleading, basketball, wrestling, ice hockey and boys’ lacrosse, have not been authorized in New York, all sports have been played in neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“That’s unacceptable,” Schmitt said. “Enough is enough. We have the data from over 34 states that proves that all sports can be safely played here in the state of New York. You can drive just 22 1/2 minutes to Northern New Jersey and those students are playing. But they can’t play in any of the districts in New York state.”
According to Schmitt’s letter, the Kentucky Football Coaches Association, which played in the fall had zero new COVID-19 cases in 12,722 combined contests.
Schmitt also said Michigan had 99 percent negative results and Wisconsin said one participant out of 30,000 tested positive.
Since sending the letter, Schmitt said he has received overwhelming support from his colleagues in the Assembly.
“Everyone here wants to get it done and wants to do it safely,” Schmitt said.
Ulster County Legislature Minority Leader Kenneth Ronk, Jr. and speaking for Assemblyman Brian Miller (R-101) urged Cuomo to “follow the science” and “trust the facts”.
“If it can be done safely, all sports should be allowed to play,” Ronk said.
Orange County Legislator Pete Tuohy said the county legislature also sent a letter to Cuomo, Zucker and Rosa urging for the authorization of all sports. He said 14 other legislators signed the letter and it should have arrived sometime Thursday.
“This builds teamwork and I don’t believe you’ll find any student-athlete that goes through life and played and doesn’t fall back to those memories,” Tuohy said.
However, time is short for basketball and wrestling as Section 9 officials have said they have no plans to postpone basketball and wrestling to another season.
“I think that’s absolutely a concern,” Schmitt said. “It’s a concern I’ve heard from parents and coaches.”