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PIAA Delays Start of Fall Sports, Seeks Discussion with Wolf Administration

by on August 07, 2020 3:08 PM

Following a Friday afternoon meeting by the Board of Directors, the PIAA is delaying the start of preseason practices and seeking further conversation with Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration regarding the upcoming fall sports season.

According to reports from an ongoing press conference, the PIAA Board is not prepared right now to move forward with the season without the state's approval.

A PIAA statement said "mandatory sports activities are paused for a two-week period," pushing back preseason practices from the planned start of Monday to Aug. 24. 

The news comes just one day after Wolf's administration announced its recommendation that all K-12 sports be put on hold until Jan. 1 of 2021. That came just a week after the PIAA announces plans to move forward with the fall sports season, a plan the included options for an alternate later start date. The Mid Penn Conference, which includes State College Area High School, announced this week that its member schools would not begin preseason practice until Sept. 4, with most competitions starting on Sept. 25.

"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 on Thursday at the conclusion of a press conference. "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."

The PIAA, which is an independent organization, issued a press release on Friday urging Wolf and the Department of Health and Education to partner with the PIAA to "further discuss fall 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 January 1, 2021 has a potential negative impact on the student's physical, social, emotional and metal health."

The full statement can be read here.

Prior to Thursday's unexpected news, the Wolf administration had given K-12 sports the same general guidelines that held true for all other gatherings across the state which called for no more than 25 people at indoor events and 250 people while outdoors. Those same guidelines also currently prohibit spectators at sporting events.

The potential for the postponement of the PIAA fall sports calendar until 2021 has seen backlash from te state legislators as well. State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, issued a harsh statement against Wolf's changing recommendations on Thursday.

“Governor Wolf once again made a unilateral, ill-considered decision that caught everyone involved off guard. This time it was parents, schools, students and the PIAA scrambling to make sense of his surprise and rash pronouncement,” Corman said in a letter co-signed by Senate Education Committee Chair Wayne Langerholc Jr

“Just last week, the PIAA, after careful consideration, said high school fall sports could proceed without spectators. The Administration said it would be issuing guidance for fall sports to take place. Then, without explanation, Governor Wolf pulls an abrupt about-face,” said Corman. “I do not think it is right to put this decision back in the laps of the PIAA and I call on the PIAA to stay the course they decided could be safely issued last week.”

State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, issued a similar letter to the PIAA.

“Like you, I was tremendously disappointed in Gov. Wolf’s intimidating ‘recommendation’ to cancel all recreational and interscholastic athletics until January of 2021. I am writing to remind you that this is not a mandate, and 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.

As of 3 p.m. on Friday, the state has not publicly responded to the PIAA's request for further dialogue.

Late on Friday, the Mid-Penn Conference released a statement "fully support(ing) the decision of the PIAA Board of Directors in delaying the start of the fall sports season.

"This fits with the decision of our conference to delay our start. While local school boards have the final say at their school, our conference will move forward with a delayed fall season as outlined earlier this week. The health and safety of our conference schools, student-athletes staffs and communities are still of the utmost importance."



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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