The dream of getting into the Section 3 tournament this winter will now be open to everyone.
Sectional officials announced Thursday in a special meeting of the section’s athletic council that all teams will be allowed to compete for a sectional crown in all winter sports regardless of record. The usual threshold of a team winning 40-percent of their games was waived for this postseason.
“During this school year, member schools have dealt with a variety of COVID-19 restrictions while still trying to honor regular-season scheduling commitments, which has created an uneven approach from a competitive standpoint and sectional qualifying standards,” a news release on the Section 3 website said. “Schools have had to participate with reduced rosters, lack of certified coaches, available officials, facility availability and transportation issues.”
Other sections including Section 2, which encompasses the Capital District of Albany and the surrounding area, also announced they would have an open tournaments.
Section 10 has open sectional play regardless of the season or sport. There have been past winter seasons with open sectionals due to weather forcing teams to cancel multiple games.
COVID-19 has played a part in cancellations and rosters being shortened.
Longtime Indian River girls basketball coach Jim Whitley said it’s the correct call to open the tournaments for all.
“I think it’s the right thing to do to have open sectionals,” said Whitley, who dealt with five players recently being out three games to quarantine. “So many teams have been impacted that it’s the fair thing to do.”
Schools that want to participate in the sectional playoffs also have to declare their intentions no later than one week before the respective sport’s seeding meeting.
The first sports to have a seeding meeting will be volleyball Feb. 1. Ice hockey will hold its meeting Feb. 13 while both boys and girls basketball will host seeding meetings Feb. 16.
Competitions will move on without teams and players that cannot play due to COVID or other illnesses. This may lead to situations like the NCAA men’s basketball and hockey tournaments where games were declared no contest and the other team was allowed to advance.
Guidelines were also given to schools in how to fit games in to complete their respective schedules. Teams with seven or players available for basketball are expected to play while the rule is eight or more volleyball and 13 or more for hockey.
“Schools are expected to honor their initial regular-season commitments if they can field a team with less than full squads for the sport,” the news release on the Section 3 website said. Any fewer numbers would be up to the school if the game is played.
Sectional play starts in early February for volleyball and in the middle of the month for basketball and hockey.