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Gov. Wolf Recommends No High School Sports Until 2021

by on August 06, 2020 12:46 PM

Updated 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2020.

A week after the PIAA announced plans to move forward with the fall sports season, Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday said his administration recommends no high school athletics be played until 2021 as the commonwealth continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The guidance is that we ought to avoid congregate settings, and that means anything that brings people together is going to help that virus get us," Wolf said. "We ought to do everything we can to do defeat that virus. Anytime we get together for any reason, that’s a problem, because it makes it easier for the virus to spread. The guidance from us, the recommendation, is that we don’t do any sports until January 1."

In a brief statement, the PIAA said it is "tremendously disappointed" by the recommendation.

"Our member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics," the statement said.

The PIAA plans to provide more information after its board of directors meets on Friday.

Wolf's remarks came at the end of a press conference with Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine primarily focused on expanded COVID-19 testing across Pennsylvania. For the final question from reporters, Wolf was asked if there was any update on PIAA guidance to allow parents in the stands for high school competitions.

In a subsequent press release, the administration clarified that the guidance is a "strong recommendation" from the departments of health and education and not a mandate. The recommendation does not apply to college or professional sports. 

The guidance recommends delaying all team and individual, school and non-school recreational youth sports, including competitions, intramural play and scrimmages. Conditioning, drills and other activities could continue on an individual bases.

Previously, the administration's guidance has only given attendance limitations for K-12 sports, stating activities must adhere to restrictions of no more than 25 people for indoor gatherings and 250 people outdoors, with only student-athletes, coaches, officials and staff present. "The addition of visitors and spectators will be contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities," the guidance says.

According to a statement from Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association Executive Director Gary Cathell, Wolf did not give the PIAA, which is an independent organization, any advance notice of the recommendation.

"I have spoken with [PIAA Executive Director Robert] Lombardi and he is the process of meeting with Governor Wolf and staff on this matter," Cathell wrote. "If all sports are canceled, the PSFCA will immediately begin conversation to have spring football."

On July 29, the PIAA, announced it was planning for all fall high school sports to be played, with flexible start times. Schools and leagues that went for the regular start could begin heat acclimatization on Aug. 10 and preseason practices on Aug. 17, with competitions beginning as early as Aug. 20 for golf to Aug. 28 for football to Sept. 4 for other sports.

The association also offered alternate start times for conferences to start later. The Mid Penn Conference, which includes State College, announced this week that its member schools would not begin preseason practice until Sept.  4, with most sports not beginning competition until Sept. 25. 

Earlier on Thursday, Penn State announced that because of the current restrictions on gatherings and sports activities, it is planning to have no fans in attendance for the fall athletics schedule.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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