By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
It won’t be official until the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Executive Committee votes on Oct. 22, but Glens Falls will keep the boys’ basketball tournament at the Civic Center for 2017, 2018 and 2019.
As expected, the boys’ basketball committee voted 8-3 last week to recommend that Glens Falls, the tournament site for 35 years, keep it for another three years after the current contract expires.
What wasn’t expected was that NYSPHSAA staff, led by executive director Robert Zayas, also recommended Glens Falls keep the tournament. That’s the key.
Mr. Zayas, in his third year, is the power behind the scenes. If he wants the tournament to stay in Glens Falls, it will stay in Glens Falls.
“I’ve only been here for three years,” Mr. Zayas told The Chronicle Monday, “but I’ve certainly become a fan of Glens Falls. I understand what it takes to put on a championship of that magnitude.
“It’s a big deal for Glens Falls, yes, but it’s also a big deal for our state association, and it’s a big deal for the students who get the opportunity to participate and the fans who attend the games.
“We’re excited to recommend Glens Falls as the host for the future. The tournament has been extremely successful there and I have no reason to believe that won’t continue.”
The championship advisory committee was scheduled to provide input on Sept. 30 (they do not have a vote) before the executive committee makes it official on Oct. 22.
Mr. Zayas stopped short of saying Glens Falls is a shoo-in. “I don’t ever like to say that anything is a done deal when you’re talking about a process because that would lead people to believe that there isn’t a process,” he said.
“The better way of saying it is the executive committee will vote on Oct. 22 and examine the recommendations from the committee and the staff.”
Has the executive committee ever gone against the recommendations of both the sport committee and the staff, I asked?
“No, the only precedent that exists is with ice hockey when the executive committee went against the sport committee recommendation.”
Note: That was the vote when Mr. Zayas and the staff recommended the hockey tournament be moved from Utica, where it has been for 28 years, to Buffalo’s Harbor Center. In May, the executive committee then voted, 16-6, to move it to Buffalo.
Mr. Zayas acknowledged, “We’ve never had an instance where the committee and the staff have both made a recommendation and the executive committee has gone against that recommendation.”
Translation: Glens Falls will keep the tournament for at least another four years. Tournament director Doug Kenyon and the Civic Center Coalition can breathe easier knowing Glens Falls will be at the center of statewide March Madness through the end of the decade.
When Mr. Zayas referenced the staff, I asked him how many people weighed in?
“Probably four others,” he said. “We briefly talked, and I think the staff understands that I’m ultimately the one held most responsible. In talking to staff members, I try to get an idea, but it ultimately comes down to me weighing the positives and negatives and trying to make the best decision.”
I’m told Mr. Zayas might have received some help arriving at his decision from a well-connected and powerful observer. The heat was on, and he knows how the game is played.
And, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mr. Zayas has his sights on a bigger, national job. Keeping the tournament here is a no-brainer. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Move it to Binghamton or Albany and he’s taking a big chance, one that could hurt his very impressive résumé down the road.
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