Binghamton Gets Their Chance

For 36-years, Glens Falls hosted the NYSPHSAA championships; Binghamton is up next

by John Furgele

Thirty-six years is a long time.  Think about it how different things were then as compared to now.  In 1981, Ronald Reagan began his first term as POTUS, people still used typewriters and peanut allergies at schools were unheard of.  1981 was also the time when the Glens Falls Civic Center stepped up to the plate to host the New York State High School basketball championships.  Known then as the Super 16, there were four classes with four games in each class.  On one day, you would play for the NYSPHSAA title and if you won, you came back the next day to play for the Federation title.  Strange, but as Cindy Adams says, “only in New York kids, only in New York.”

Glens Falls was there when the tournament needed somebody and for 36 years, the city and the Civic Center did just that.  For high school hoopsters, the first practice in November ended with two words:  Glens Falls.

Recently, there have been many who think it is time for a change and that other cities should get the opportunity to host the NYSPHSAA championships.  On the other side, there are the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” people who believe that Glens Falls should be the permanent home of the state basketball championships.

In recent years, Binghamton has been the one persistent city that has wanted to take a turn at hosting.  They have a downtown arena that is similar to that of the Civic Center; big enough to accommodate, small enough to be intimate.  They tried, but each time, tradition—and Glens Falls—prevailed.  In the fall of 2015, they voted again as to who would host the tournament for the next three years (2017-2019) and when the smoke had cleared, Glens Falls had won.  However, Glens Falls changed their bid after being awarded the contract and cries of foul were proclaimed.  In the re-vote, Binghamton emerged as the winner.

This is where it gets murky.  Did Glens Falls really change their bid, and if so, how much?  Why did they change their bid?  Is the new executive director, Robert Zayas, out to get Glens Falls?  Was Binghamton’s bid better than that of Glens Falls?

There are some that think it is only fair to move the tournament around.  The other high school sports do the same, so why shouldn’t basketball?  In college, the Final Four moves around every year for both the men and the women.  The College Football Playoff moves each year , so why shouldn’t New York State High School basketball do the same?

Those who wanted it to stay in Glens Falls cite tradition.  It has been in Glens Falls for 36 years and darn it, it should stay there.  The local paper, The Post-Star, covers it like big-city papers cover the Super Bowl.  But, it is 2016, is it wrong for other cities to get a crack at it?

The High School hockey tournament moved from its longtime home of Utica to Buffalo in 2016, so why shouldn’t basketball move?  There are many who are bitter.  On the tournament’s final Sunday, there were “Boycott Binghamton,” shirts visible in the crowd.  There were veteran tournament goers who vowed to never set foot in Binghamton for the 2017 tournament.   I understand their sentiments.  It is tough to leave one venue, especially if that venue has done an outstanding job of hosting something as important as state championship basketball.  Count me among those who will miss hearing about the Road to Glens Falls over the next three years.  The Road to Binghamton doesn’t sound all that bad, but it will take some getting used to.

I hope that the people will give Binghamton a fair shake and fair shot.  Binghamton is a city that is struggling.  Struggling to keep its residents, struggling to provide good jobs for those citizens and struggling to find its way in this the 21st century.  The city has tried for years to get the state tournament and truth-be-told were never really given a chance because of tradition and the Glens Falls lobby.  It was in the game, but it never really had the chance to win the game.  Now, they have their chance and let’s give them the opportunity to prove their mettle.  Let’s not “Boycott Binghamton,” because no matter where the games are played, the action promises to be exciting just like it has been in Glens Falls since 1981.  Boycotting punishes both the fans and the players.  The more fans, the better the games feel.

Can Binghamton do as good of a job as Glens Falls?  That will be the question that will be asked one year from now.  There will be skeptics and there will be journalists who will go to Binghamton to look for flaws, warts and other wrongdoings, so they can write, “told you so,” in their local papers.  Will the Post-Star send a reporter to Binghamton to get a perspective on the new host?  And, if they do, will they be fair or will they have an agenda when they get there?

I’m all for tradition, and part of that is because of my age.  I remember using a typewriter, I remember running to the phone when it rang and I remember listening to music and dee-jays on AM radio, something that we all did back in 1981.  But, I think Binghamton—and other cities—deserve the opportunity to host the NYSPHSAA championships.  But, I would also like to suggest a caveat.

Glens Falls should be a permanent rotation member.  Every three years, Glens Falls gets the tournament back.  Let Binghamton host the 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions and then send it back to the Glens Falls Civic Center for 2019-2021.  For the next three years (2022-2024), let another city bid on the festivities.  By then, maybe Rochester, Buffalo, Utica or even Plattsburgh might want a crack at it.  The opposite could also happen.  It might be too much work for the Binghamtons and Oleans and maybe it goes back to Glens Falls, but that probably won’t be the case.  There are always those who thrive on organizing such a tournament, but Glens Falls should never be forgotten.  Let the city host every three years (if that is the agreed upon bid cycle), but let other cities get a shot, too.  To me, it’s a win-win for all.

Glens Falls and its organizers are hurt, which is more than understandable.  They did win the right to host the New York State Federation championships from 2017-2019, which crowns the overall boys—and girls—champions in Classes AA, A and B, so there will be March basketball at the Civic Center for the next three years.  It might not be the same, but it actually provides 18 total games as compared to 15 for the boys’ tournament.

Thirty-six years is indeed, a long time, and when somebody needed to step-up, Glens Falls was there.  It’s fair to move the state tournament around, but it would be nice for Glens Falls to be allowed to host every three years, if the current cycle remains.

We know that life isn’t fair.  We know that politics and money too often guide the decision making process in New York State and beyond.  But, let’s remember that this is high school basketball and there should be some purity in it.  Binghamton deserves a shot as do other cities and Glens Falls should never be forgotten.  There is a fair way to legislate this.

Even in New York.







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