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One ball to rule them all

CCAA?set to use Spalding balls during 2016-17 school year

July 13, 2016
By Jeremy Izzio - , Westfield Republican

Have you ever sat in the stands of a high school sporting contest and wondered what brand of ball the players are using?

Likely not, but players and coaches often enter contests not knowing which brand of ball will be used, and different balls can equal a different feel and approach.

Now, come the 2016-2017 season, the affects of a state-level contract will trickle its way down to the Chautauqua Cattaraugus Athletic Association and the answer to the question at every game will be Spalding.

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Beginning in the fall, Spalding will be the official brand of balls used during all high school sports where a ball is required for play. The CCAA, through use of the NYSPHSAA?Ball Adoption Program, will make the switch to Spalding for football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.

That contract is known as the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Ball Adoption Program.

While the new program is resulting in increased revenues for the 11 Sections that make up the NYSPHSAA, it also appears to be beneficial for everyone from the student athletes to state athletic directors, according to NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas.

"When I first got here to New York (from New Mexico) I came to the realization that the 11 Sections and the State Association were all basically in conflict with the ball adoption agreement we had," Zayas said. "Some Sections were using different balls than the State Association had. So I asked the question, 'Why can't we all play with the same ball?'

"I had concerns from a student athlete's perspective with consistency, where kids were playing with one ball in Sectionals and a different ball in Regionals and State championships. Also from the prospective of an athletic director truly understanding what balls to order year to year."

The Ball Adoption Program is the first of its kind for the NYSPHSAA and it applies to game balls for football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball.

It's intention is to provide consistency throughout the state for student athletes and member schools, while also generating revenue for Sections to use at their own discretion, according to NYSPHSAA documents.

That revenue was generated through a contract with Spalding, who won the bid to be the exclusive supplier of balls for New York State public high school sports.

In February of 2015, the NYSPHSAA staff and officers evaluated nine proposals from national ball manufacturers. Spalding's bid was chosen and the two sides entered a five-year contract period, beginning with the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.

"Seventy-five percent of the money from the contract goes to the Sections," Zayas said. "The State Association only keeps 25 percent. Then each Section receives an equal third of the 75 percent, then a third based on the number of students who participate, and a third based on the number of schools in their Section. It's distributed in a very equitable manner.

"A Section like Section V (Gennessee Valley) who has 119 schools is going to get more money than Sections VII (Champlain area) or X (St. Lawrence area) who have 25 schools. That's the same formula we use to bill for insurance and other things as well. Since it has worked so well in other areas, that's the formula we used for distribution of the money."

If Sections chose to use the Spalding balls for each of the previously-named sports, those Sections would receive a guaranteed rights fee and product credit for the length of the contract.

The money received has no stipulations as to how it must be spent, but Zayas said some examples of ways the money is typically used is to hire a full-time executive director, reduce dues, create a sportsmanship program, furthering coaching education, and more.

Section VI agreed and Spalding balls will be used in Section-, Region- and State-level play for at least the next five years. The program doesn't take effect until the first Sectional game of 2016. In theory, teams could use whatever game balls they choose for league play, but come Sectional-level competition, the Spalding ball must be used.

With that in mind, Section VI Soccer Chairman Todd Marquardt believes most, if not all member schools, will use the Spalding balls throughout league play this coming season in preparation for playoffs.

Concerns surrounding greater weight and price were raised locally regarding the new soccer balls, but Marquardt sees the Spalding balls as a welcome change from previous issues.

"We as a state committee did not like the Brine ball," Marquardt said. "There are 11 sections in New York state and I would say probably eight of them didn't care for (the Brine soccer ball). We as Section VI went to the Select brand of ball for about five to six years and then, because of the Sectional tournament feeding into Regionals and States, the (Section VI) teams had to go back and use the Brine ball during those (higher stakes) competitions."

In terms of weight, the two proposed soccer balls - the TF-5000 and SC5 - each fall within FIFA's approved 420-445 gram weight limit according to Spalding's product description and the price (approximately $35 and $45 respectively) is comparable to match balls previously used by Section VI.

No further concerns have been presented by Section VI coaches or athletic directors for any other sports.

"There are definitely coaches out there who will say, 'I haven't used a Spalding ball in 20 years.' Well, then they don't understand what Spalding is. ... I have the utmost confidence in the Spalding products. Anyone who says otherwise, the only question I would ask them is how much money they spend on an annual basis for research and development to come up with that conclusion. Because Spalding is spending more money than any other ball manufacturer on an annual basis."

After spending 10 years as a member of the New Mexico High School Athletic Association, Zayas arrived in New York with a vision, which he was able to execute with his team and the Sections to roll out a one-of-a-kind program.

"We are doing what no other state has had the opportunity to do," Zayas said. "I was just at a meeting out in Nevada with the other athletic associations of every other state in the country. California is a state similar to ours with Sections. They aren't doing this. No one else has been able to accomplish what we just did."

As a result, this coming year, every pitcher in the state will be gripping the same seams all season. Quarterbacks throughout the state will have the same feel every game and every player, no matter what the sport, will be able to enter their respective contest knowing at least one variable has been eliminated.



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