Gary VanDerzee is no longer the Section 2 football chairman.
That’s because the long-time Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk coach is now the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s football chairman.
VanDerzee was approved to replace Dick Cerone as the state football chairman at NYSPHSAA’s summer meeting Monday, July 28. Cerone had been at the helm for 33 years before stepping down.
“It’s an exciting opportunity, and we’ll try to continue what Dick Cerone did … and try not to mess it up,” said VanDerzee.
To replace VanDerzee as Section 2 football chairman, the committee stuck with the RCS coaching staff and promoted Bob Dorrance to the position.
“I loved being on the committee, but I never thought about becoming the chairman. It wasn’t even on my radar,” said Dorrance, who joined the section football committee in 2007. “This just fell into my lap, and what a great opportunity for me that presented itself out of the blue.”
“Bob has been on the committee for the last several years,” said VanDerzee, who spent the past 17 years as sectional chairman. “He’s worked closely with me, and he’s gained a lot of respect from the Section 2 football coaches.”
VanDerzee said in some ways, being the state football chairman is similar to being the sectional chairman. He’ll be coordinating dates and sites for championship games, he’ll be looking at classification numbers for all the schools and he’ll be dealing with participation and safety issues. The difference is that he’ll be doing all of that at the state level.
“I’ve talked to Dick Cerone, and he’s given me a timetable to follow,” said VanDerzee. “You have to do certain things by a certain time. You have to coordinate with the people at the Carrier Dome (in Syracuse) to set the dates and times for the state finals, as well as the folks out west and in Kingston for the regionals and state semifinals. You have to make certain all of the footballs are ordered for the season.”
Player safety has been part of the national discussion for several years now, and VanDerzee said he’ll look at what is going on at the collegiate and pro levels to see how they address the issue before making any decisions for New York high schools.
“It all comes downhill from the pros down to the colleges and the high schools,” said VanDerzee. “Not everything that works at the NFL level works at the collegiate level, and not everything that works for the colleges works for the high schools. So, we’ll have to see what works for us.
“We’re always concerned with participation and safety. We’re always looking for ways to make the game safer for our student athletes and give them opportunities to participate,” he added.
The one thing VanDerzee said he won’t do at this point is look to move the eastern semifinal from Kingston’s Dietz Stadium, which has hosted the event for several decades. The University at Albany’s Bob Ford Field might have been a candidate with a seating capacity of more than 8,000 and a professional grade artificial turf field – two things Dietz Stadium doesn’t have. But, VanDerzee said scheduling five semifinal games in mid November at Bob Ford Field wouldn’t be possible.
“It wouldn’t be a problem hosting it at UAlbany, The problem is, UAlbany is still playing football at that time of year and you never know if they’re going to be hosting a playoff game at that point. So, you can’t lock in that facility,” said VanDerzee.
As sectional chairman, VanDerzee said he witnessed some of the things Cerone did over the years while representing Section 2 at regional and statewide playoff games.
“I understand the process, and I’ve been around it,” said VanDerzee. “There’s going to be a lot of working with the people at the Carrier Dome and all the sectional chairmen, but we’ve got a great team in place.”
Likewise, Dorrance has seen firsthand what VanDerzee has gone through as sectional chairman, since the two men work together at RCS.
“I think that’s why the guys on the committee were comfortable nominating me,” said Dorrance. “They weren’t bringing in someone from outside of Section 2 to be the chairman. They know me, and they know I’ll have a great resource in the room with me (in VanDerzee).”
Dorrance comes in at a time when Section 2 is seeing yearly shifts in league sizes and merging programs. Several schools moved up a classification level as Class B programs Green Tech and Lansingburgh joined Class A, while the newly-merged Lake George/Hadley-Luzerne program moved from Class D to Class C, as did Schoharie-Duanesburg – which added players from Berne-Knox-Westerlo – and the private school triumvirate of Catholic Central, Bishop Gibbons and Saratoga Central Catholic.
“Some people were worried that (mergers) would create super programs, but that hasn’t been the case around here so far,” said Dorrance. “I hope it’s something that allows kids to play football.”
The other significant move in Section 2 is Niskayuna’s decision to play an independent schedule at the Class A level this season. Niskayuna had been part of Class AA the last several years, but Dorrance said a lack of numbers at Niskayuna’s modified and junior varsity levels precipitated the request for the move.
“Niskayuna is a unique circumstance. They did a good job of presenting their case (to the sectional committee), and this was the best outcome for them,” said Dorrance. “Hopefully for Niskayuna, it’s a one-time thing for them and not a growing a trend for the section.”
There is a unique circumstance at RCS, too. It now has a football coaching staff that includes the state high school and the Section 2 chairmen.
“It’s great that the state chairman is coming from Section 2 and that the Section 2 chairman is coming from the same room,” said Dorrance.
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