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Written by: Billy Splain on Friday, July 31st, 2020
COMPLETE STATEMENT FROM WPIAL
NOTICE TO ALL SCHOOLS REGARDING CHANGES TO FALL SPORTS July 31, 2020
In light of the current situation faced by school districts, the state and the nation due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the WPIAL encourages everyone to be flexible and understanding of the fluid situation and know that the decisions made during the July 30, 2020 WPIAL Board meeting were difficult, but necessary during this unprecedented time. We look forward to the full return of school and sports but must adapt in the current environment for at least the foreseeable future. Thus, we respectfully ask for your patience and cooperation as we all travel down this path together.
On July 29, 2020 the PIAA Board of Directors met and approved several changes relative to the 2020 fall sports season. They released the following message to all schools following that meeting:
“ PIAA recognizes that Pennsylvania i s a large state that is experiencing very disparate circumstances in addressing the COVID – 19 crisis, dep ending on locations in the state. For that reason, localized measured decisions, rather than a “one size fits all,” seems to be the best approach in ad dressing interscholastic athletics within the Commonwealth. In the current environment, PIAA supports p roceeding with the fall sports seasons as scheduled but endorses the ability of schools, leagues and/or conferences to defer contests after the first co ntest date and following the opening of schools based on local community metrics and health guidance. T his flexibility continues a Board of Directors’ comm itment to provide some opportunities for participation in interscholastic athletics for all students during the 2020 – 21 school year. The suggested starting information for a regular start, an alternate st art or a hybrid, a blend of the two starts … can be found on the PIAA Press Release f rom July 29, 2020 . ”
With that information, the WPIAL Board of Directors met on July 30, 2020 to discuss the appropriate approach for the WPIAL and its valued member schools. After lengthy deliberation, the Board acknowledged that the schools in our league are at various stages of addressing this crisis both during the school day and with extracurricular activities. As such, they unanimously approved the implementation of the PIAA’s “Hybrid Start” model.
Hybrid Start : As part of an alter native schedule, play for fall sports should be gin no later than Monday, October 5 or may be later with a request to the respective District Committee. Any combination of the established start dates or the alternative schedule, must comply with the establi shed pre – season practice guidelines and may be utilized to accommodate the needs of each local school and community.
This means there will be various competition start dates for each sport as outlined below. The purpose of this change is to allow for the gradual return to play while allowing schools the ability to make the necessary adjustments during the beginning of the school year without the added burdens and unknowns of hosting and traveling to numerous competitions.
In addition to the adjustment of competition start dates, the Board approved the reduction of contests to help schools financially, as well as limit the potential spread of the Coronavirus. Limiting the number of contests allows for more opportunities to monitor student-athletes’ health and more time to properly clean facilities. Finally, if there were to be a “shut down” period, there would be less games missed and more availability to reschedule with an opponent under this model.
With the exception of football, there have been no changes made to the WPIAL tournament schedules at this time. However, the PIAA will be reviewing both district and state Post-Season tournaments at their next meeting as stated in the July 29, 2020 press release:
In order to accommodate flexible scheduling, a determination on the hosting of PIAA District and State Playoffs will be made at a later date, but no later than Wednesday, August 26, 202 0, to assess starting of school initiatives and COVID – 19, pandemic circumstances, in each area of the state.
BENEFITS of moving to the Hybrid Start:
• Allows school districts to focus on reopening schools without having to deal with added complications and unknowns of hosting or traveling to team sport competitions. • Allows all schools time to implement and perfect their individual Athletic Health & Safety Plan as well as PIAA’s Return to Competition guidelines.
• Provides additional time for schools that may not have begun out-of-season workouts to gradually return with their teams to in-person workouts and possibly use an every-other-day approach if necessary.
• Allows schools time to develop best procedures and strategies for hosting other schools at their facilities.
• Allows student-athletes in moderate to high risk sports more preparation time to be both physically and mentally fit for sport specific competitions.
• Allows the “Low Risk” and smaller team-size sports of Golf and Tennis the opportunity to continue as scheduled.
• Shortens the Football Season to limit the exposure while allowing for a meaningful regular season and an opportunity for champions to be determined.
• Limits the amount of travel required by focusing on “Section Competitions” which are grouped primarily by geography.
PARAMETERS for ALL SPORTS:
• All sports are ALLOWED to begin PRACTICE on the scheduled start date of August 17, 2020, with Football Heat-Acclimatization able to begin on August 10, 2020.
• Schools are allowed to start practice LATER than August 17, 2020 if they choose but must adhere to the pre-season practice guidelines before scrimmaging or competing.
• Each fall sports team is limited to 1 preseason scrimmage.
• *There is a new limit for each sport on the “Maximum Allowed Competitions”. The new amount will be REDUCED to the highest number of section contests scheduled by the WPIAL for that sport as listed below. This allows every school the same number of contests, some being all “section” contests and others having “section” contests along with a few non-section contests up to the difference of the new maximum. If a school drops their schedule, or cannot play a contest, the opposing schools would be able to fill that vacancy with another school as long as they do not go above the new max. This will continue until the start of the WPIAL Tournament.
• Per the PIAA’s recent decision of allowing schools the ability to compete up until the date of the state final (instead of the district deadline), schools NOT entering the WPIAL Tournament may continue to compete up until the last day of competition in the state (for that sport) as long as they do not go above the PIAA maximum allowable contests. Teams that enter the WPIAL Tournament will conclude their season upon elimination from the tournament.
• Currently, WPIAL Championship Tournaments are scheduled to continue as normal except for FOOTBALL which is detailed in the football section of this document. The WPIAL Board of Directors will continue to evaluate the status of each of the tournaments and communicate any necessary changes as the situation continues to evolve.
a. Heat Acclimatization may begin as scheduled on Aug. 10, 2020
b. First Scrimmage Sept. 3, 2020; First Competition Sept. 10, 2020
c. With the high possibility of PIAA advancing the entry date to the state Football Tournament (as early as 2 weeks sooner than currently listed dates), the WPIAL needs to adjust schedules now to accommodate this change if later approved.
d. CHANGES TO CURRENT FOOTBALL SCHEDULE:
e. Conclusion of the Regular Season will be on Oct. 23, 2020
f. *New Max Competitions: 7
g. WPIAL Championship Schedule if PIAA OFFERS state tournament: Qualifiers as follows:
WPIAL Championship Schedule if PIAA does NOT offer state tournament but advances the completion date for the season:
2 Week Tournament (10/30/20 and 11/6/20), Qualifiers as follows:
h. All FOOTBALL Playoff information will be crafted and posted as part of the cover page on the WPIAL website, along with a new schedule grid.
i. PIAA Championships TBD.
The PIAA also approved a document for school communication during competitions and an outline of how districts can handle cancellations due to COVID-19 cases. The WPIAL will be reviewing that information and developing a document to address in-season cancellations due to a COVID-19. That information will be distributed to schools by August 17, 2020.
The WPIAL is cognizant of the challenges placed before school administrators and local School Boards and anticipates traditional penalties being waived for not completing schedules as assigned during the fall 2020 season.
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