ALBANY, N.Y. – The beginning of the high school fall sports season has been delayed until at least Monday, Sept. 21, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced Thursday.

The season was slated to begin on Aug. 24, a date now seen as “unrealistic,” said Paul Harrica, the association’s president. The four-week delay eliminates the possibility of regional or state champions being crowned this fall.

The state is also preparing for the fall season to be wiped out entirely. If that happens, three condensed seasons would be played, beginning with winter sports in January (Jan. 4 – March 13), fall sports in March (March 1 – May 8) and spring sports in April (April 5 – June 12). The latter two seasons overlap by four weeks, creating conflicts for students who play both fall and spring sports, such as football and lacrosse.

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“We recognize this is challenging for everyone, but the decisions made at the state level are based upon data and statewide infection rates all in an effort to stop the spread of COVID and reopen responsibly,” said Dr. Robert Zayas, executive director of NYSPHSAA.

The changes were recommended by the association’s COVID-19 Task Force, which had its third meeting of the summer on Thursday morning.

NYSPHSAA also waived a restriction that prevents student-athletes from practicing or playing seven days in a row. Schools are also being encouraged to schedule local opponents.

Ultimately, many decisions about the upcoming sports year, including the fate of freshman/JV sports and allowing students to participate in two sports at once, will be left up to the individual schools, Zayas said on a conference call with reporters.