After COVID-19 cancels again, Fordham extends Federation basketball tournament through 2024

Josh Thomson
Rockland/Westchester Journal News

When the association that operates the Federation Tournament of Champions announced Tuesday that its annual year-end boys and girls basketball won't be played again this year, the news was expected. After all, public school state championships, which determine some of the participants, are among those already canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in what was welcome news to local basketball teams and fans, the organization said it would extend the current partnership with Fordham University, which had been set to host for the first time last March.

With its first two chances to do so canceled, Fordham has gladly extended the contract through 2024.

Malcolm Chimezie of Stepinac pulls down a rebound against Cardinal Hayes during a CHSAA semifinal basketball game at Fordham University March 7, 2019. Stepinac defeated Cardinal Hayes 77-65.

"Absolutely. I think we feel honored to host it," Fordham's interim athletic director Ed Kull said. "With the love of basketball here in New York City, to be able to host the Federation championships and have the best of the best play here, we think it's a win for all of us. Hopefully they feel the same way."

Fordham's bid for the right to host resulted in a three-year pact, lasting from 2020-22. But the school's Bronx campus was closed early last March when the pandemic began to rage in New York and all postseason tournaments were eventually canceled.

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This time, the New York State Federation of Secondary Schools Athletic Association didn't wait to cancel. The current environment left little option. Not only has high school basketball still not begun in New York, the state health department has deemed the sport high-risk. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to allow any high-risk sports to compete and has issued no guidance on when or if he might.

The virus has already killed over 400,000 Americans and more than two million people worldwide.

"Due to the continuing public health emergency related to COVID-19, the Federation Executive Board unanimously voted to cancel this year's Federation Basketball Championships," NYSFSSAA executive secretary Jim Foster said. "It's a disappointing announcement but the Board felt it was in the best interest of student-athlete safety and furthermore, it is an unknown if Fordham University will even be open for events utilizing the college facilities in March."

Rose Hill Gym at Fordham University in the Bronx March 21, 2019, where the Federation Tournament of Champions will take place next year. Fordham University men's basketball assistant coach Mike DePaoli, a North Salem grad, was integral in bringing the Federation Tournament of Champions to New York City from Glens Falls.

Next year would have been the final year of the organization's contract with Fordham. The event had been held in Glens Falls for 30 years, moved to Albany in 2012, then returned to Glens Falls in recent years.

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Fordham bid to host beginning in 2020 was selected the previous year after the university's efforts, which were spurred by men's basketball assistant coach Mike DePaoli, a former North Salem High School star. The decision was welcome news to the local basketball community after years of cries to move the event closer to the five boroughs.

On average, approximately 70% of boys and girls teams that participate are within a 30-mile radius of New York City.

"It's great for them and those basketball fans in the southern part of New York," said Stepinac coach Pat Massaroni, whose team won the coveted Class AA championship in 2018 and was a contender to represent the CHSAA again last season. "The majority of teams that make the Federation tournament are from south of the Albany area. It will allow for larger crowds, media coverage and environments championship games should be played in."

Kull said he looked forward to the event finally landing at Rose Hill Gym in 2022 when, he hopes, a year or more of crowd-less games, postponements and cancellations for high school and college athletics is finally over.

"It's a positive situation and a positive story," Kull said. "It's a real win for the university and New York City, and our fans and supporters. We love New York City basketball and we think we have one of the most historic and oldest Division I gyms in the country. We think it's a great fit."

Josh Thomson is the Local Sports Editor for The Journal News and Poughkeepsie Journal. He can be reached by e-mail at, on Twitter at @lohudinsider, and on Instagram at @lohudinsider.