Section VI delays change after outcry from city high school football teams and supporters

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Section VI has announced it will delay implementation to move to league-based scheduling for football.

Earlier in January, a vote by members of the Section VI Football Federation changed from federation to league scheduling, which put scheduling in the hands of leagues rather than the section itself.

The vote ended up leaving five Buffalo city schools without a league: Bennett, Burgard, Hutch-Tech, McKinley and South Park, and also the section’s lone charter school that a fields a team, WNY Maritime/Health Sciences.

Last week, Buffalo Public Schools had petitioned to become football-only members of the Erie County Interscholastic Conference. The ECIC turned them down, citing difficulty fitting the schools into the schedule.

Under league-based scheduling, city schools remain in the section, but would face challenges in filling out a schedule by not being in a league.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, State Sen. Tim Kennedy, Common Council President Darius Pridgen, and Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas all said Monday, before the announcement from Section VI, that this is a wrong that costs city school athletes opportunities and should be reversed.

Kennedy promised all parties would meet soon, but Section VI issued this statement Monday afternoon.

“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.”

Section VI President Adam Stoltman

“I am pleased that the Executive Committee of Section VI, NYSPHSAA, Inc., listened with open hearts and minds to the concerns of our community and recognize the importance of inclusive and equitable interscholastic athletics.

“In reversing its decision to exclude students from the City of Buffalo from competing against their neighbors and friends, Section VI confirms what we all know too well: diversity is our strength.

“And on the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let us rejoice in the news that, together, this City and this Region came together to do what is right.”

Statement from Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown

Supporters of the city teams said the issue was fairness to the athletes and the spirit of competition making everyone better.

“Our plaques show that we deserve to play in Section VI, because we are winners,” said Nashon Oliver, to applause.

“I have been blessed with scholarships from multiple schools solely because of who we are and the opportunities that we have. With us being taken out of Section VI, that’s taking away future opportunities for my brothers that are playing, and I don’t feel that’s right.”

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