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Inter-Ac League reverses course, plans to stage fall sports

One week after announcing its intention to maintain its Aug. 26 shutdown because of COVID-19, the league said it would hold 'modified, non-championship' competition in football and other sports.

Malcolm Folk (left) of Episcopal Academy flies over Lonnie White Jr. of Malvern Prep (No. 10) in 2019.
Malcolm Folk (left) of Episcopal Academy flies over Lonnie White Jr. of Malvern Prep (No. 10) in 2019.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Citing studies of youth sports that show little evidence of transmission of the coronavirus during on-field contact, the Inter-Academic League on Friday reversed course and announced plans to stage fall sports.

In a statement, the league said it would sponsor “a modified, non-championship fall sports schedule for football, boys' and girls' soccer, field hockey, boys' and girls' cross-country, girls' tennis, boys' water polo, volleyball and boys' golf.”

The news came one week after the league announced its intention to continue its suspension of interscholastic competition while noting that league member Malvern Prep planned to pursue fall sports as an independent.

The Inter-Ac originally shut down fall sports on Aug. 26, citing the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is tremendous for our players, especially the seniors,” Episcopal Academy athletic director and football coach Todd Fairlie said. “We are happy they will get the chance to play this fall. It’s also tremendous that the entire league has full in-person learning and able to pull off athletics.”

Friday’s announcement means football teams from Episcopal Academy, Penn Charter, Germantown Academy, Haverford School, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy likely will play four or five league games, beginning as soon as the weekend of Oct. 24 or Oct. 31.

In its statement, the Inter-Ac noted “low rates of community transmission in our area.”

The announcement said schools can decide which sports in which to participate without consequence from the league. Fall competition likely would continue through Nov 28, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Back in August, the Inter-Ac unveiled tentative plans for a three-season model for sports after the New Year, with a seven-week winter season followed by a seven-week fall season, and a seven-week spring season.

The league cited studies by health experts on youth sports as the key factor in its decision to move forward with competition.

“In recent months, health experts studying youth sports have observed that there has been little evidence of the transmission of the virus occurring because of on-field contact,” the league statement said. “Rather, it occurs on the sidelines when safety protocols are not followed, in locker rooms, and at team social events. This new information has influenced the Inter-Ac schools' analysis of the risk-benefit of a fall competitive season.”