By CLAUDE SCILLEY
After a threatened job action by secondary school teachers put a cloud over the prospect of fall high school sports for most of the summer, it appears things are back to normal in the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
“We’re full steam ahead,” KASSAA commissioner Frank Halligan said.
In a memo to its members in July, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation ordered them to “immediately cease performing any and all extra-curricular activities,” as of July 20. That meant no planning for such things as sports, drama or musical performances or clubs.
Late last month, after reaching a tentative agreement with the province, the federation rescinded that order, clearing the way for extra-curriculars.
Contracts remain to be ratified, but that appears to be a formality.
“We got the OK from the federation to go back to the extra-curriculars,” Halligan said, “and I’m in the process of trying to put together seven schedules that make some sense.”
Athletic directors are scheduled to meet Sept, 15, with the KASSAA-wide coaches meeting two days later. Competition in field hockey, football, boys volleyball and girls basketball will commence the week of Sept. 21, Halligan said. Field hockey games will be played that day, basketball and volleyball will open on the Tuesday, and football games will be played on Wednesday and Thursday of that week, since Friday, Sept. 25, is the first professional development day of the year.
Halligan expects there will be 11 teams in both junior and senior divisions of the basketball and volleyball leagues, though some schools, he said, “are wondering if they have enough for a senior team.”
There will be nine junior football teams and potentially nine senior teams as well, since Kingston and Queen Elizabeth collegiates, soon to be housed under the same roof, will try again to field a combined team.
An attempt at doing so last year failed in mid-season, when lack of players caused the team to fold.
“That left three teams without a sixth game last year, and it’s a short enough season to begin with,” Halligan. “The question mark for that group is determining next week if they have … a strong enough commitment to complete the season.
“Otherwise, we’ll run with eight (senior) teams.”
Frontenac has declared its intent to enter AAA competition in senior football only, giving KASSAA four triple-A teams—Holy Cross, Regiopolis Notre Dame and the KC-QE Combines are the others. Sydenham, La Salle, Bayridge, Ernestown and Napanee will contest the county’s AA crown.
There will, therefore, be two senior championships, though with KC fielding its own junior team, and Frontenac's juniors staying at AA, there will be only two junior teams classed as AAA. As a result, there likely will be just a single junior championship game.
Those games, by the way, will likely be played at Loyalist Collegiate, since the demolition of Richardson Stadium will commence as soon as the Queen’s Golden Gaels have played their last football game of the season.
As was the case a year ago, with no AAA teams elsewhere in eastern Ontario, the KASSAA triple-A champion will go directly to an OFSAA Bowl at Tim Hortons Stadium in Hamilton; the AA champion, meanwhile, will enter eastern Ontario playoffs for a National Capital Bowl game to be played in TD Place, home of the CFL’s Ottawa RedBlacks.
After a year of playing with a schedule that divided teams into two tiers, the girls basketball league will revert to a true round-robin regular schedule.
“It was a good experiment,” Halligan said, “and there’s a lot of mixed feelings, both ways. There were some who really liked (the tiered schedule), and there were others that didn’t feel it led to what they’d hoped it would lead to.”
When it came time to decide whether to retain the two-tiered season—where the top teams played only each other; the remainder also stayed within their bracket—there wasn’t sufficient support either to proceed or to adopt a modified version of it.
After a regular season where the AAA and AA football teams play an unbalanced schedule, mixing and matching opponents based on a complicated formula that extrapolates past performance, teams split into their respective classifications at the beginning of playoffs.
In basketball, teams play a single playoff, with teams going their separate ways only when they go beyond KASSAA.
Halligan said adopting the football model has been discussed for basketball.
“It’s come up a couple of times and I’m sure it’s going to come up again,” Halligan said. “From the standpoint of it now being a AA-heavy league, I wouldn’t be surprised after we look at what happens this year, if it’s something raised by the coaches or athletic directors.
“Unlike Ottawa, where you have well over 50 schools to divide into three (classifications), the fear here is with only 12 schools, sometimes less, it could weaken things rather than help things, but there are some creative things that can be done there.”
The only logistical variable this year concerns McLellan Field in Sydenham, which is under repair and not available this fall. Sydenham’s football and field hockey teams will play their home games on Caraco Field at the Invista Centre.