PIAA

HARRISBURG >> The PIAA is moving forward with fall sports as scheduled, with strict safety protocols and flexibility in scheduling.

One of the major safety protocols announced Wednesday, July 29 is that no fans will be allowed under the state mandate that currently limits large gatherings to 250 people. That includes teams, officials, and support staff. Another key factor is a team will have to shut down completely for 14 days if an athlete tests positive for COVID-19.

The PIAA’s Board of Directors approved three different scheduling scenarios for the start of the fall season: A regular start, an alternative schedule and a hybrid commencement.

Under the regular start, the first date for heat acclimatization is Monday, Aug. 10, followed by the first practice on Monday, Aug. 17. The first contest dates set for Aug. 20 (golf), Aug. 24 (tennis), Aug. 28 (football) and Sept. 4 (cross country, girls volleyball, field hockey, soccer and water polo).

Under the alternate start, the first contest date would be Sept. 14 for all sports except football, which would begin on Sept. 18. Teams still must have a minimum of three weeks of training leading up to the first contest, with the exception of golf (three days) and tennis (one week).

Under the hybrid plan, competition would begin no later than Oct. 5. The alternative plans can vary from sport to sport, the PIAA said in a news release on its website.

The state's athletic governing body essentially left the decision on which plan to follow up to the individual school districts. The board did not discuss the possibility of ending all fall sports seasons by Thanksgiving, which has been discussed on social media. The board is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 26.

“I don’t know how to run a state or a big organization like that, but everyone’s in a tough position due to all this stuff,” Penncrest football coach Ryan Smith said. “It puts a whole lot on a school district from a superintendent’s perspective, an administrator’s perspective, an athletic director’s perspective and a school board’s perspective to come to a collective agreement as to what is in the best interest to the kids in the community. It’s not a very desirable position to be in. But if you’re telling me there’s an opportunity to have a fall season, there’s a lot of positivity to that.”

College conferences and state high school associations have been struggling with this decision for months. Several conferences and many individual institutions have shut down competition for the fall semester.

More than half of the 51 members of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) are moving forward with fall sports as scheduled, according to a story on the organization's website.

Five states, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington and Virginia, plus the District of Columbia, have moved football to the winter or spring and 23 states have delayed the start of the fall sports season.

“I thought that they were going to let the state and the school districts decide,” Haverford High football coach Joe Gallagher said of the PIAA’s decision. “I think it’s going to come down to what our district is going to say. And I’m fine with whatever they determine is right. I think if we get good guidelines on how we can play safely it will have a positive effect on kids for a lot of reasons. I’m hopeful and wishful that we’re going to get the OK.”

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