BOE may change or eliminate ‘selection classification’ in Cazenovia athletics

— The Cazenovia school board had a lengthy and at times heated discussion with district Athletic Director Michael Byrnes last week about the district’s current policy on when exceptional young athletes can be moved up to a higher team level —called “selection classification” — and whether or not the district should revise or even eliminate the program.

At issue is the wording, as well as the use, of the policy as currently worded in the extracurricular handbook: whether the wording is incorrect, the definition of an “exceptional” athlete is being misapplied and/or misinterpreted to move too many players up and if the policy is even simply unfair to older students who may lose playing time to younger students moved up to higher levels.

Some school board members even charged that the BOE changed the policy last year but the changes were not implemented in the athletic program this year — whether purposefully or not — which has compounded the importance of addressing the issue even more.

The board discussed the issue at its Jan. 26 regular monthly meeting in response to a member’s request for a review of the program. Part of the information board members received was the total number of players moved by through the Selection Classification program last year, which included six eighth grade basketball players — four boys and two girls — a situation board members deemed totally against the intent of the policy. Some board members said it is implausible that six players in one year could meet the level of truly “elite” or “exceptional” athletes as the policy intends.

“That’s not elite,” said BOE member Karin Marris. “We want our rule to be fair.”

“That [number of players] is incredible,” agreed member Leigh Baldwin. “It’s clear to me ‘exceptional’ players must be exceptional.”

According to information on the district’s webpage, the Selection Classification program is the formal process by which students in grades seven and eight can become eligible to participate on junior varsity or varsity level athletics teams despite the fact they have not yet reached the ninth grade eligibility requirement. “This process is intended to be used rarely and is only intended for students who are rated as exceptional, unusually gifted or elite. Experience does not necessarily correlate to exceptionality,” the policy states.

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