PIAA District III conducted its first virtual annual meeting on Thursday, May 21, via the Zoom video conference software platform. It was the first committee meeting since the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season due to the coronavirus.
The result was likely the most attended District III meeting in history with 127 member schools, several District III corporate partners, media and general public in attendance. A total of 165 people joined the conference at its peak.
District III Chairman Doug Bohannon, athletic director at ELCO HS, guided the gathering through the traditional annual meeting minus the spring sports reports, which are usually done in front of the group by the spring sports chairs and the comments from members of the PIAA office staff.
The question on everyone’s mind, when will scholastic sports return, was only briefly mentioned by Bohannon in a prepared statement.
“We do not have that answer,” Bohannon said. “I don’t know that answer. None of us know the answer.”
PIAA sports have been in limbo since mid-March when spring sports and two PIAA winter sports championships -- the basketball championships and Class 2A swimming and diving -- were suspended. On April 9, following Gov. Wolf’s statewide stay-at-home order, PIAA reluctantly canceled those events plus school-based workouts, the latter until June 30.
In recent days, Wolf has begun implementing his phased reopening plan, giving rise to the possibility of resumed workouts when Pennsylvania counties enter the “green” phase.
The PIAA Board of Directors has given PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi the authority to grant athletes a return to workouts, provided they follow state health guidelines and restrictions.
All District III counties have yet to reach the green phase. Most currently sit in the yellow phase, which prohibits close-contact workouts. When all District III counties reach the green phase is still an open question.
“We will continue to follow the direction of the governor and the departments of health and education,” Bohannon said.
When PIAA suspended the remaining winter championships, there were 15 basketball teams still alive in their respective classifications. There were 8 boys’ teams still on the bracket: Reading and Wilson in 6A, Muhlenberg, New Oxford and Milton Hershey in 5A, Bishop McDevitt and Lancaster Catholic in 4A, and Trinity in 3A. There were 7 girls’ teams: Central York in 6A, Mechanicsburg and Gettysburg in 5A, Northern Lebanon and Lancaster Catholic in 4A, Delone Catholic in 3A and Linden Hall in 2A.
The suspension and eventual cancellation of PIAA 2A swimming dashed the hopes of 114 District III swimmers to gain a state medal: 63 boys and 51 girls qualified for 2A states covering 75 qualifying spots in boys and 65 qualifying spots in girls, including relay teams and diving. Several teams were at Bucknell University for registration when the PIAA was forced to suddenly shut down the event.
The rest of the meeting covered various agenda items including:
-The introduction of a record number of guests and District III’s five corporate partners. Four of the five addressed the membership briefly: Bill Bamber, regional sales manager of FieldTurf; Michael Enriquez, CEO of OSS Health; John Eyster, regional vice president of title sponsor M&T Bank; and Renee Walker of the Peyton Walker Foundation. River Rock Academy CEO Steve Capoferri was unable to join the meeting due to a previous commitment.
-A financial update from Treasurer Bob Baker, which included the welcome news that the 2019-20 year, while truncated because of the loss of spring sports, appears to have stemmed the tide of significant financial losses in recent years. Good football attendance combined with several cost-saving actions by the district helped stabilize the district’s financial picture.
-The announcement that retiring Donegal athletic director Dr. Ron Kennedy will assume the role of District III Executive Director on July 1. Kennedy, who will also be the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s executive director, has been the district’s interim executive director since the October retirement of C. Wendell Hower.
-The introduction of and welcoming of new committee members Branden Lippy of Lampeter-Strasburg, Jared Griest of Mount Calvary Christian School and William McHale as male officials’ representative. Lippy is replacing Kennedy as one of the two Lancaster-Lebanon League reps. Griest is replacing Hal Griffths of West Shore Christian School as the Commonwealth Christian Athletic Conference representative; Griffths will retain his chairmanship of District III Cross-Country. McHale will replace long-time male officials’ representative Rich Czarnecki, who is retiring. All three will be seated on the committee as of July 1.
-Recognition of Warwick athletic director Ryan Landis as the District III Athletic Director of the Year and the PSADA Region 5 AD of the Year.
-Discussion about the PIAA proposal to adopt 13 weight classes instead of the NFHS’ recommended 14 weight classes that have been in place since the 2002-03 season. The PIAA Board of Directors voted 30-0 to advance the proposal on a first-reading basis, but also move the proposal to the PIAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for review.
-Confirmation from golf chairman Arnie Fritzius about a change in format for the 2020-21 District III M&T Bank Golf Championships Oct. 9-10 at Briarwood Golf Course in York. Fritzius said the Team Golf Championship will be conducted on Friday, Oct. 9 simultaneous with the first day of the Individual Championships at Briarwood. Class 2A Boys and Girls will play at the Briarwood West Course while Class 3A boys and girls will play at the Briarwood East Course. The classes will alternate courses each year moving forward.
Following the business meeting, the District III Committee held its annual reorganization for the 2020-21 school year.
The latest District III Committee meeting was held via Zoom on Wednesday, June 3.