By Terry Toohey
It’s looking more and more like the fall high school sports season is going to start later than usual thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Penncrest High School pushed the start of its fall in-season practices back to Aug. 24 for safety, the school announced on Twitter Tuesday. That includes the heat acclimation week for football.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” athletic director Chip Olinger said.
Olinger has asked the school board to extend its OTA health plan/practices through Aug. 23. It is supposed to end Sunday. He said the board is expected to vote on that issue Thursday and make a determination on fall sports on Aug. 20.
Under PIAA regulations, teams must have three full weeks of practice before competition can begin. That means the earliest games can begin for Penncrest is Friday, Sept. 11.
Last week the PIAA announced that it was moving forward with fall sports as scheduled but gave individual schools the option for alternative or hybrid starts. The decision by Penncrest would fall into the hybrid category.
According to the PIAA calendar, football is allowed to start Aug. 10 with the heat acclimation week. All other sports can start practice on Aug. 17. The first contest date for football is Aug. 28. The first game date for all other sports, with the exception of golf and girls tennis, is Sept. 4. Golf can start on Aug. 20 and tennis on Aug. 24 (both require less practice before the first competition date).
By Matthew DeGeorge
If you looked at Wednesday’s declaration by the PIAA about the future of fall high school sports and wondered what’s next, you’re not alone. Many school administrators are in the same boat.
The PIAA’s determination ceded scheduling control to school districts in the face of whatever the COVID-19 pandemic looks like in their part of the state. But the line between flexibility and lack of guidance is thin. And while the PIAA’s guiding ethos is “maximizing the athletic opportunities for students across the Commonwealth,” many districts are left to figure it out with limited guidance.
“It’s frustrating because you look at the PIAA and you would think that the PIAA would want to create a level playing field for all and equity across the state,” Garnet Valley athletic director Seth Bruner said Thursday. “And I understand where they’re coming from and why they’re doing it and that it’s not an issue in some parts of the state. But speaking for me at Garnet Valley, I look to them for guidance. And it’s easier if we’re on the same page as a league or a county instead of on our own island. Because if something happens at Garnet Valley, it affects all of our opponents.”
“As a parent, it didn’t really do any good for us,” said Penncrest AD Chip Olinger, who has three kids, including a high school junior, in the Garnet Valley district. “There’s really been no clarity. Things change weekly … Yesterday was just basically in my mind, putting all of us in a really difficult position. These are guidelines. They’re not rules.”
By Neil Geoghegan
In what was probably one of the most anticipated announcements in Pennsylvania high school sports history, the state’s governing body voted Wednesday in favor of moving forward with plans to play sports this fall season.
In the throes of a global pandemic, and with heat acclimatization set to begin in less than two weeks, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Board of Directors voted 29-3 in favor of ‘Return to Competition’ guidelines, outlined in a two dozen-plus page plan.
“We’ve really been working at this because we feel it is vitally important to give our students every opportunity to be student-athletes,” said PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi. “We are advocates for them. Educational-based athletics are vital to growth, health and development of student-athletes and their ultimate success.
“There are a lot of what-ifs. But the biggest what-if is this: what if we don’t try? If we don’t try to get something out of the (fall) season for students, I think we are failing them. We need to do our darnedest to help them become successful.”
By Steve Moore
In a public, four-plus hour Zoom meeting this week, the school board and superintendent in my home district discussed many important issues.
One stuck with me while lying in bed a few hours later.
On the two days a week my 6-year-old daughter goes to school, can she have class outside? It’s a simple question with a not-so-simple answer.
In the world of social distancing, it’s safer to have 20 first-graders sitting criss-cross applesauce, six feet apart, in the fresh air. But for security reasons, teachers can’t just see the sun and decide to move outdoors.
What happens if there’s a school shooting?
One month from now, if the PIAA’s pipe dream comes true, I will be starting my 15th season of high school football.
There is nothing we love more than fall Fridays. Each season, there are fewer folks who earn paychecks covering high school sports. None of us take that for granted.
In 36 days, our dwindling, but dedicated, staff should be banding together for our first 2020 Football Friday.
I don’t think it will happen.
And I don’t think it should happen.
By Billy Splain
Strath Haven Panthers
Head Coach Kevin Clancy
2019 Season Record 9-3
Key Starters Lost
John Prochniak FB-LB,
Ibo Pio, HB-FS,
John Wilson TE-LB,
Sam Burk T-DT,
Matt Doughty, G-DT,
Mike Golay C
Jack Henry T,
Alex Shehadi G
Emmet Young K
By Matt Smith
The PIAA’s surprise announcement Wednesday to “stay the course” as it pertains to fall sports was met with a polarizing response.
Many were thrilled the PIAA took action and unequivocally stated there will be sports in August, unless directed otherwise by the state politicians. And many others were outraged and complaining that the PIAA is not looking out for the best interests of student-athletes during the ongoing pandemic.
Both sides have their points.
Yes, it’s clear that coronavirus is here to stay … at least for a while. It’s very difficult to imagine how football and other contact sports will look. Waivers will be signed and tests will be conducted on a daily basis. Everything now falls on individual school districts who have designed health and safety plans for their student-athletes.
It’s the new normal.
On the other hand, the news comes as a breath of fresh and a huge weight lifted off the student-athletes. You can’t blame any of them for being upset at the prospect of seeing their fall sport canceled, just as you can’t blame them for being overwhelmed with joy about the PIAA’s decision to move forward.
By Ralph D. Russo
The NCAA handed down its latest guidelines for playing through a pandemic while also sounding an alarm: The prospect of having a fall semester with football and other sports is looking grim.
If the games can go on, the NCAA says college athletes should be tested for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before they play, players with high-risk exposures to the corona virus should be quarantined for 14 days and everybody on the sideline should wear a mask.
The nation’s largest governing body for college sports released an updated guidance Thursday to help member schools navigate competition, but it comes as the pandemic rages on.
“This document lays out the advice of health care professionals as to how to resume college sports if we can achieve an environment where COVID-19 rates are manageable,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”
By Matt Allibone
College conferences around the country are suspending or canceling fall sports, but the PIAA is sticking with the status quo and planning to move ahead with fall athletics as scheduled.
That could change over the next month depending on state government restrictions as the coronavirus pandemic develops.
A major development on the topic was not expected at Wednesday’s PIAA Board of Directors meeting, and the topic was rarely discussed during the two-plus hour virtual Zoom session. However, executive director Robert Lombardi took questions from the media on the situation afterward.
His main point was that the organization is planning on fall sports while acknowledging the situation remains fluid.
“We are trying to hold serve and stay the course based on any information we receive,” Lombardi said at the end of the meeting. “Right now it’s status quo.”
Right now, football heat acclimatization is scheduled for Aug. 10 and the first day of fall practice is scheduled for Aug. 17. Contests are scheduled to begin shortly after that with football kicking off Aug. 28.
The PIAA is scheduled to meet again July 29, but Lombardi said the organization doesn’t have a “drop dead” date for when it would have to cancel or suspend fall sports.
By Matt Smith
What will happen in August to high school sports around here? Nobody has the answer. Not coaches, not administrators, not parents, not the PIAA.
Aug. 10 marks the first day on PIAA’s fall sports schedule. Real, organized practicing is permitted. Technically, it’s called heat acclimatization week. Physical contact is forbidden. The following week is when the fun starts.
By now, every school district in the state wishing to have an athletics department has implemented a school-board health and safety plan for the coronavirus age. Voluntary workouts at high schools throughout the state got under way in late June.
By Billy Splain
“Everyone needs to take a step back, take a deep breath and calm down.” That was Dr. Lombardi’s message to Coaches, Athletics Directors, parents, fans, social media surfers, players and anyone else worrying about the upcoming season and what is about to happen.
With the Ivy league cancelling their season, along with the Centennial conference and several other college leagues such as the Big Ten going to modified schedules due to the difficulties presented by the covid 19 pandemic, it seems the entire PA high school sports world went into panic mode. Hope is there though,. In West Virginia, WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan made the announcement alongside WV Governor Jim Justice that the start of the 2020 high school football season has been delayed by just one week. Games are now allowed to be played starting on September 3. In the east, New Jersey moved their season back to October 2.
Rumors like “they are cancelling the football season on July 15, they cancelled Hershey state championships, they are talking about spring football to suggestions such as “we should flip the spring and fall sport seasons” blew up social media sites.
Another thing that has people wondering what is to come is seeing big time states like Texas, where they “say” football is king (we disagree) talk about moving their sport to January and New Mexico shelving their season until January. Of course these are warm weather states and that would make it easier to hold their seasons in the middle of the winter, something that Lombardi says wouldn’t be good around Pennsylvania.