Citing awareness of the “negative impact postponement of fall sports would have upon 350,000 student-athletes and their families,” the PIAA vowed Friday to push forward with the plans to sponsor athletic competition this fall for Pennsylvania high schools.
PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi’s comments on the organization’s intention to continue to strategize safe measures for staging fall sports such as football, soccer, field hockey, and cross country came in a statement that outlined the topics of a meeting Friday afternoon between PIAA officials and representatives of Gov. Wolf’s administration.
The statement indicated that PIAA still hopes to sponsor fall sports while noting that the “Governor’s staff repeatedly indicated this is a local school decision.”
PIAA said that in the meeting, “We discussed many different scenarios including schools’ health and sports’ safety strategies, local liability protection and options for moving ahead with fall sports.”
On Aug. 6, the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education jointly issued a “strong recommendation” that school-sponsored and recreational youth sports be shut down until Jan. 1.
PIAA said its board of directors will meet again Friday, Aug. 21, “to discuss the starting of fall sports.”
In another development, the PA Athletic Oversight Committee announced it will host a meeting Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the Senate Chamber to discuss plans by the “Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), school superintendents, coaches and athletic directors to resume school sports safely this fall,” according to a press release from the office of state Sen. Scott Martin (R-13), per a Pennlive.com report.
On Thursday, Pennsylvania health secretary Rachel Levine defended the administration’s decision to recommend shutting down sports, noting it was aligned with factors that led collegiate athletic conferences such as the Big Ten, which includes Penn State, to postpone their fall seasons.
The PIAA is “concerned that the Governor’s ‘strong’ recommendation last week and comments in yesterday’s press conference were not based on Pennsylvania sport-specific data and the recommendation has been perceived as a mandate by member schools,” the PIAA said in Friday’s statement.
The Wolf administration has indicated that the recommendation to shut down sports was “not a mandate or order” and that the decision should be made by local school officials.
“We will continue to be advocates for athletic activities that promote the health and safety, social, emotional and mental well-being of student-athletes,” Lombardi said.
Also on Friday, the five-school Del Val League announced it was shutting down fall sports. On Monday, the Philadelphia Public League suspended sports until the new year.
On Thursday, Levine indicated the recommendation to postpone school sports until Jan. 1 at the earliest was a preventative measure.
“Kids aren’t back at school and they’re not in school sports, so I can’t have the data about [possible outbreaks] until it would happen,” Levine said. “The idea that children are somehow immune from this disease is untrue. That they can’t have serious side effects from this disease is untrue. Children don’t live in a vacuum. They come back to their parents, who are adults who could get very sick. And then they have contact with other family members.”
On Aug. 7, the PIAA announced a plan to pause fall sports for two weeks while seeking “dialogue” with the administration of Gov. Wolf as well as state legislatures for further guidance on the future of fall sports.