Amsterdam’s move to Foothills almost set

AMSTERDAM – With the school boards of the majority of the Foothills Council’s eight schools approving the move, it appears that Amsterdam and Schuylerville will be joining the league for the 2014-15 season.

Though the official vote won’t come from the Foothills Council until March 10 or 13, it looks like both schools will be added to the league.

Following Johnstown’s unanimous approval of the admission of Schuylerville and Amsterdam to the Foothills Council on Tuesday, a total of six of the league’s schools have now had their boards approve the move. Gloversville, Broadalbin-Perth, Scotia-Glenville, South Glens Falls and Glens Falls have all approved the addition of Amsterdam and Schuylerville, while Queensbury and Hudson Falls are expected to vote at their next school board meetings on March 10 and 11, respectively.

To join the league, schools must have their applications approved by a majority of the league’s school boards. With six of eight having already said yes, the Foothills Council vote in March appears to be a formality for Amsterdam and Schuylerville.

“I think the addition of Amsterdam and Schuylerville solidifies the league,” Queensbury athletic director and Foothills Council President Scott Stuart said. “It will also save some travel costs and gives the league two quality programs that will fit well with what we currently offer.”

In a statement on the Greater Amsterdam School District website, Amsterdam Principal David Ziskin said, “The Foothills Council is a well-organized league with member schools who share our philosophy to provide strong learning opportunities for our student athletes from the modified through the varsity levels. The move to this league would align us with local schools, provide more competition at the Class A level and bring consistent, complete schedules to all of our girls programs as well as our JV and modified teams.”

According to the 2013-14 classification numbers of the NYSPHSAA website, Amsterdam has 866 students in grades 9 to 11 eligible to play high school sports, making it a Class A school (480-909 students). Six of eight schools in the current Foothills Council are Class A, with the remaining two in Class B (280-479 students), including Johnstown (478) and Broadalbin-Perth (417). Schuylerville, which is the largest school in the Wasaren League, also is a class B school with 437 students.

Of the schools in the Big 10, five are Class AA (910 students and up), including Schenectady (2,102 students) and Albany (1,710 students). Three are Class A (Troy, Amsterdam and Catholic Central), and Bishop Gibbons is Class B.

“We believe our district is better aligned with schools in the Foothills Council,” Amsterdam Superintendent Thomas F. Perillo said in a statement on the Amsterdam website. “We believe this move would help us ensure our athletes can make the most of their high school sports experience by having as many games or competitions as possible in a season.”

When Amsterdam previously applied to join the league for the 2012-13 school year, it was denied after the vote among the league’s existing schools ended in a 4-4 tie.

The league’s northern schools – Hudson Falls, Glens Falls, Queensbury and South Glens Falls – voted no, citing increased transportation costs and an unbalanced league schedule among their reasons. The league’s southern schools – Gloversville, Johnstown, Broadalbin-Perth and Scotia-Glenville – all approved of the move when it was last proposed.

“It would have created an imbalance with an odd number of teams,” Perillo said in the release. “Our understanding is that it will not be an issue this time, as Schuylerville has also petitioned the Foothills Council.”

Schuylerville is looking to join the Foothills Council because it is outgrowing the Wasaren League, according to Schuylerville athletic director Heath Morris.

“Schuylerville’s enrollment is closer to those found in Foothills Council than those in the Wasaren League,” he said. “I think moving to Foothills, if its goes though, which it does appear that it will, will help our athletic programs. We’re definitely looking forward to it as far as providing opportunities for our student-athletes.”

In reviewing district data, the state has determined Schuylerville has 431 students in grades 9-11 eligible to play high school sports in the 2014-15 school year. In the Wasaren League, Granville has the next largest number of eligible students at 304, but the other Wasaren schools have numbers between 203 and 295. Schuylerville’s move to the Foothills Council would put it on more equal footing with opposing districts, as the Council schools have between 434 and 866 high school students, the release said.

“This move also gives us the opportunity to more fully fill our game schedules in each sport at all of the different levels,” Morris said.

In the fall, Amsterdam offers its student-athletes the opportunity to participate in league-play in boys and girls soccer, cross country, girls tennis, girls swimming, volleyball and golf. In the winter, the school offers boys and girls basketball, boys swimming, indoor track, wrestling and bowling, while offering baseball, softball, track and field, boys tennis and boys lacrosse in the spring.

“We’re absolutely excited,” Amsterdam athletic director Randy Hutto said. “The reason we’re excited is because this move will certainly help our athletic program.”

Schuylerville offers boys soccer, girls soccer, field hockey, cross country, volleyball and golf during the fall season, while participating in boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, skiing, indoor track and wrestling during the winter season. In the spring, Schuylerville offers softball, baseball, track and field, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse and tennis.

Football is played by classification instead of a league format.

The move has been well received by the existing members of the Foothills Council.

“I think it’s a good thing. Amsterdam and Schuylerville are a good fit for the league,” Broadalbin-Perth athletic director Mike Calvello said. “They both have all of the programs that the other schools in the league currently offer. I think it will be a smooth transition. I don’t think there will be any bumps in the road.”

Despite B-P being one of the smallest schools in the Foothills Council, Calvello said his school is looking forward to the addition of Schuylerville and Amsterdam.

“I think when you play bigger schools in your league all season, it helps during sectional play,” he said. “I think expanding our league is long overdue. I think it will be a really good thing for the Foothills Council.”

Gloversville athletic director Mike DeMagistris agreed.

“Amsterdam and Schuylerville are two great school districts that will bring a lot to our league. They are very comparable to the schools already in the league and they make our league even more competitive,” he said. “I think it’s great for our league to expand. I think it’s a positive all the way around.”

Johnstown athletic director Jim Robare shared a similar view of the addition of Amsterdam and Schuylerville.

“It’s a great move for our league,” Robare said. “I’m happy to see the league grow. We always strive as a group to improve our league each year. This is definitely a positive.”

The area’s Foothills Council schools also already play non-league contests in several sports against both Schuylerville and Amsterdam.

“We’ve been very fortunate that several Foothills Council schools have extended non-league games to us,” Hutto said. “I appreciate the fact that Mike [DeMagistris], Jim [Robare] and Mike [Calvello] gone out way to make sure we’ve filled our non-league schedule.”

If the move is finalized, the Foothills Council will split into two divisions, with Amsterdam, Broadalbin-Perth, Gloversville, Johnstown and Scotia-Glenville in a southern division, while Hudson Falls, Queensbury, Glens Falls, South Glens Falls and Schuylerville would comprise the north division.

“It’s good. It may create more rivals in the division,” Robare said.

In the new format, schools would play their division rivals twice, while playing teams from the other division once, making for a 13-game league schedule with the possibility of a crossover contest to even the number of league games at 14.

“We’re discussing that right now,” Calvello said of possible crossover games to even up the league schedule. “It will be up to the individual sports as to what they choose to do.”

When asked if further expansion was a possibility, Stuart said he wanted the addition of Amsterdam and Schuylerville finalized first before considering any additional moves.

“Let’s get through this first. I think we’ve been talking about this for a while, and it’s good to see it finally coming together,” he said. “We’re pretty excited. I think both schools are a really good fit for the league.”