Last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recommended that no interscholastic or recreational sports be played until January of 2021, leaving the upcoming fall and winter high school sports seasons up in the air.
The state government released the statement outlining their recommendations Thursday evening, which said the recommendation was “not an order or mandate.” The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports, met a day later to discuss the governor’s suggestion, and asked the governor to partner with the PIAA and work collaboratively on a plan for fall sports.
The PIAA released the following statement after their Board of Directors meeting Friday afternoon.
“Our member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans in accordance with the Department of Health and Department of Education recommendations to allow students to safely return to interscholastic sports.
“The PIAA Board of Directors has heard the thousands of voices of student-athletes, parents, coaches, and community leaders that have contacted us. The board believes that the governor’s strong recommendation to delay sports to Jan. 1, 2021, has a potential negative impact on the students’ physical, social, emotional and mental health. These issues along with the financial inability of many students to participate in any other form of non-school based athletic programs affect all students directly or indirectly.
“PIAA is asking the governor, along with the Departments of Health and Education, to partner with us and work collaboratively to further discuss fall sports. We are also seeking insight and discussion from the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
“It is clear to PIAA, the unintended consequences of cancelling fall sports need to be further reviewed. PIAA has worked diligently with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and developed the following general policy statement:
‘Based on currently known information, the committee believes that strict adherence by schools and teams to their school-adopted plans and the Governor’s School Sports Guidance should provide a reasonably safe environment for student-athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics as currently scheduled.’
“Consistent with the advice of the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, PIAA continues to believe it can safely sponsor fall sports. On Aug. 21, the board will reconvene. Between now and then, voluntary workouts, per the Governor’s Guidance for All Sports, and with local approval, may continue. “Mandatory fall sports activities are paused for the two-week period. PIAA remains committed to providing a season for each of the sports during the 2020-21 school year.”
Even before the governor’s recommendation, the Mid Penn Conference had already decided to push back the start of practices and games for fall high school sports in response to the delay of school start-ups by many districts.
The conference had designated Sept. 4 as the earliest date to begin formal fall sports practices. Regular season contests for all sports would not start before Sept. 25. Golf matches would be the only exception, and would begin Sept. 11.
The fall season will consist of Mid Penn divisional games only, and all tournaments or invitationals will be canceled for the season.
The beginning of football heat acclimatization practices was originally scheduled for Aug. 10. Week 0 of the regular season was set for Aug. 28.
“The Mid-Penn Conference fully supports the decision of the PIAA Board of Directors in delaying the start of the fall sports season,” the conference said in a statement. “This fits with the decision of our conference to delay our start. While local school boards still have the final say at their school, our conference will move forward with a delayed fall season. The health and safety of our conference schools, student-athletes, staffs and communities are still of the utmost importance.”
Michael Montedoro, the Athletic Director for Shippensburg Area Senior High School, would like to see Greyhound student-athletes on the field as soon as possible. But as of now, all he can do is wait.
“Your heart breaks for the seniors that didn’t get to have a spring season, and it would be just as traumatic for those seniors that are counting on having a fall season,” Montedoro said recently. “We are working real hard with our school administration trying to figure out what is best for Shippensburg as we move forward. We want nothing more than to play sports in the fall, we just don’t know what that is going to look like.”
The issue has become a talking point at the State Capitol, as recently State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) sent a letter to the PIAA urging the body to make an independent stand from Gov. Tom Wolf’s recommendation.
“I am asking you to stand firm on your previous decision to continue with PIAA-sanctioned events during the fall athletic season. In taking this stand for our young people, you would have my support and the support of the majority of the General Assembly,” Benninghoff wrote. “PIAA is an independent association, and I, along with many Pennsylvanians, trust your previous commonsense decision to allow fall activities to safely continue so students can have even a degree of normalcy that they so desperately need and deserve.”