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Written by: Billy Splain on Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
It was a marathon five and one half hour meeting, but eventually talks turned to what many wanted to hear: what’s going to happen to fall sports? With the COVID 19 restrictions in place, there can currently be no contact between players and their coaches until July 1 as directed by the office of the Governor of PA. To confuse things even more, the Governor’s Red/Yellow/Green phase is all over the place, with not much reason nor rhyme. This makes it a difficult target for the PIAA to hit with adjustments.
Then throw in the fact the the National Federation of State High School Associations released a 16-page set of guidelines today that had coaches and fans everywhere in a panic. “It is important to be clear that this is guidance for individual states to consider as they return to activities this fall,” NFHS executive director Karissa Niehoff said in a statement. “States will utilize the guidance in this document as it best fits their state after consulting with local and state health departments.” When talks at the meeting returned after a closed session, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi let everyone know that they aren’t ready to endorse them. “There’s a lot of detail in there and there are some things that I think are very questionable,” Lombardi said Wednesday during a break in the board of directors meeting. “I think it really needs to go to the PIAA sports medicine committee before anyone else.” “That’s nothing more than a resource document,” Lombardi said. “I know they put it out as a guideline, but calling things guidelines scare me because sometimes people interpret them as things you should do. I’m not sure the Federation’s intent was that.”
Once discussion finally turned to the opening the state by county and the red/yellow/green phases, Bob Hartman made a passionate plea “We have to follow what the governor says, many of us here on the board are parents or grandparents. If athletes are allowed to participate in some things according to the guidelines, I honestly don’t care what the date is. If D10 can work out two weeks from now, and I am speaking hypothetically, I’d say let them! I have kids at home that would love to work out. I understand the arguments about what’s fair, state championships and whatnot, but that’s six months from now. The July 1 date, if someone can do something before then, let’s let them. ” Several others agreed.
On stadiums with no fans, especially in the eastern half of state, Lombardi says “think right now, again we are months away. It could look different, it could start different. It could be attended different. You look at what’s going on all over the country. Things are changing rapidly. It’s just too early to say what it might look like, but we need to get the sports in. The communities need them. If some can get played and some can’t, even if it’s four games and no playoffs we have to get them in” said Lombardi. He also reiterated his earlier statement that they are “cautiously optimistic” that the season will start on time.
The board also agreed that they have to have a contingency plan for the state championships, but not currently. That’s a discussion they need to handle down the road. The board then made a move that should make everyone hopeful. “There could be a scenario where players could work out two weeks from now,” according to Lombardi. “When we came out with the original orders we said ‘right now it’s July first but we said that could change'”. They voted to let Bob Lombardi make decisions accordingly to when sections can get back to work. This will allow any activity in any phase, if anything is permitted in any phase, as long as it’s permissible. They reiterated that the phases are basically like moving targets, and constantly changing, and they gave Lombardi the “power to allow off season workouts if they are granted permissions by the government in the counties available.” So to answer you beforehand, yes, some areas might get back to work before others.
“I think the board gets a bad rap that they don’t care,” Lombardi said. “You saw and heard how committed they are to get kids to do what they like to do: play athletics. That’s why this whole scenario of the last eight weeks has been so gut-wrenching for all of us.”
The next question is, what will the PIAA allow once coaches and players are able to resume activities? “Without going too far down the rabbit hole we’ll rely on off season regulations” said Lombardi. “We understand the people need to be fit but we don’t need coaches running a scrimmage on July 2. I think everyone would be so happy just to get back and do something they love to do they wouldn’t want to jeopardize that opportunity by getting carried away. “We really do have good coaches in our state and we trust them to do the right thing” said Lombardi.
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