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PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi has a message for everyone…..

Written by: on Friday, July 10th, 2020


“Everyone needs to take a step back, take a deep breath and calm down.” That was Dr. Lombardi’s message to Coaches, Athletics Directors, parents, fans, social media surfers, players and anyone else worrying about the upcoming season and what is about to happen.

With the Ivy league cancelling their season, along with the Centennial conference and several other college leagues such as the Big Ten going to modified schedules due to the difficulties presented by the covid 19 pandemic, it seems the entire PA high school sports world went into panic mode. Hope is there though,. In West Virginia, WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan made the announcement alongside WV Governor Jim Justice that the start of the 2020 high school football season has been delayed by just one week. Games are now allowed to be played starting on September 3. In the east, New Jersey moved their season back to October 2. Lombardi says what happens with college sports will have no influences on their decision as college teams have far more complexities to worry about.

Rumors like “they are cancelling the football season on July 15, they cancelled Hershey state championships, they are talking about spring football to suggestions such as “we should flip the spring and fall sport seasons” blew up social media sites.

Another thing that has people wondering what is to come is seeing big time states like Texas, where they “say” football is king (we disagree) talk about moving their sport to January and New Mexico shelving their season until January. Of course these are warm weather states and that would make it easier to hold their seasons in the middle of the winter, something that Lombardi says wouldn’t be good around Pennsylvania.

“Hey, we’re talking about, I think you’re setting kids set up for an overuse problem, especially in a sport that you start out in mediocre weather and go into good weather, these sports like baseball and softball are not built to start in halfway decent weather and then go into bad weather. You could be looking at the last three weeks of October being very cold and these kids have just thrown for six months, do you want them throwing in the cold after throwing for six months?”

Then you have the other sports to consider like track, then you get into a whole new set of issues. “There’s another huge problem that nobody’s even talking about is site availability” said Lombardi.”A lot of our sports use college fields and tracks and we just simply don’t know if they would be available and quite frankly we don’t know if a college would even want us to come to their field’s, just too many unknowns.”

Another thing that was mentioned was the absolute uncertainty of the whole situation. “And then even further the fall doesn’t go and we flip seasons those sports lose another season. Is that fair to them? No it’s not. That’s an equitable” said Lombardi. “We don’t even know if winter and spring sports will happen. We’re taking this one day at a time. It may go the other way and things get better, we just don’t know.”  Then you have the issue that, if, say baseball moves to the fall, the season gets cancelled, they don’t see the field again until the spring of 2022. That’s just not something the PIAA wants to even think about.

But in PA, it’s football that holds the top spot for conversation. Moving football to the spring presents even more challenges. “First, the NFHS and the PIAA Sports Medicine department more than likely won’t allow it. It’s just too much to ask kids to maybe go April/May, an 8 week season, then in 10 weeks come back. Football is a collision sport and it takes time for the body to heal.” Lombardi then addressed some other issues. “You also have to think about the kids that just signed with colleges. Many of them aren’t even allowed to participate in all star games. Do we really think they’d want them to participate in a full, head on 8 week season that ends two weeks before they’re to report to their respective colleges?”

The PIAA board will meet on Wednesday, July 15. At that meeting, several discussions will begin that the board hasn’t even talked about yet. Many of those items are the basis for the rumors running rampant through social media right now.  One of them is “what will football look like, what if we have to postpone?” Dr. Lombardi says they’re taking it week by week.  “Look, right now, you’re all working out. On August 10, you will start heat acclimation, and on August 17, you’ll begin your first practice.   That’s where we are right now. We’ll discuss what shortening a season looks like, our plan is to just keep pushing back week by week if we have to. If we have to we’ll go all the way to the first week of October.” If at that point it looks like the season can’t go, Lombardi said at that point they’ll begin a conversation about what to do with football and fall sports next.

If the season is halted, PFN owner Billy Splain already has plans in the works for several “senior combines” all over the state in conjunction with Ron Johnson and the PSFCA as part of the new “Front Line Recruiting Initiative”. But even those are in question as we have no idea what the recruiting calendar will look like. Remember, if the D1 schools are playing their season, then recruiting is on their “to do” list in the fall.

When asked about what the PIAA has in plans for testing and what would happen if a player or team had someone that tested positive or got sick and tested positive Lombardi said those are some of the questions they’re going to start posing to each other at their meeting on Wednesday night. “We’re going to take a look at Iowa who is playing their baseball season right now and they have a couple of models. We are watching to see how that works for them. We’ve already had interruptions and we need to have some discussion up around 30,000 feet on how we’re going to handle disruptions.”

As for testing players for Covid 19, “We can’t mandate schools to test for the coronavirus, we can just request them to look into it. It would be up to the individual schools” said Lombardi. “Tell them all, take a nice, deep breath. We’re doing everything we can to get fall sports in, during the fall.”

In Iowa, the social distancing rules were designed to ease burdens that strict rules made difficult. For example, dugouts are allowed to be used, but players are asked to spread out as much as possible while in them. Only players, coaches, trainers and umpires are allowed on the field of play, which includes the dugout area. Coaches should consider social distancing when interacting with anyone on the field of play, whether it’s a player or umpire. Normal lineup exchange can take place before games, but there will be no handshake lines after games. For more on the Iowa model: They’ve already had several teams seasons come to an abrupt end when players have been exposed to Covid 19.

Some of those tips answer questions many have had such as the mask always policy just passed by the PA Government which states players must either be social distancing or wear a mask on the sideline. The PIAA will talk with the Governors office to clarify issues like these because it simply isn’t feasible or practical to have a kid play, come off the field, put on a mask only to take it off two plays later to reenter the game.  Standing six feet apart won’t work in many cases either. If you have 50 kids on your team, and a sideline that’s tight, you’re endzone to endzone.  So the PIAA will continue to seek an audience with the state to modify and hopefully ease some restrictions.


Other happenings in the HS sports world around the country:

TSSAA (Tennessee). Many want to know what were all of the limitations for our Governor’s mandate of extending the State of Emergency order through August 29. Within the wording of this order, football and girls soccer WILL NOT BEGIN their seasons as originally scheduled. TSSAA has also requested from the governor the option of starting on time .Another words giving high schools the same exemption as he has given college and NFL

in Illinois. They are allowed 20 days in the summer starting July 5th.

North Dakota Governor and State Supt of Public Instruction will be coming out with guidelines July 15 on what fall schooling and activities will look like. A lot of speculation as to what it will look like. Currently, ND is playing summer baseball and I’ve seen there has been a few organized summer league basketball tournaments taking place.

In Washington State the WIAA pushed back the start date of practices in the fall to September 5th for football and September 7th for all other sports. The WIAA is meeting again on July 22nd to either go with or alter that plan. The WIAA is working closely with the Governors office on regulations, guidelines, etc. There are various plans on the table from starting on September 5th with a full season to having Fall Sports in January (12 week season), Winter Sports in at the end of February (12 week season) and Spring Sports at the end of April (12 week season). There would be overlap between seasons, but would get in all three seasons. Also switching Fall and Winter sports in that model was discussed due to playing outside in possible snow, bad weather, etc. Lots of moving parts here in Washington State.

Connecticut is currently in Phase II with Phase III being pushed back 3 weeks. We can know do
outdoor conditioning with 10 players and 1 coach present. Makes for long days trying to get 50 kids
through conditioning. Now that the Ivy League has cancelled all fall sports this may be the start of trend in the Northeast.

Michigan: MHSAA is still committed to having fall sports staying in the fall and having three sport seasons. They are, however, making contingency plans, in case things change, like they do daily! (7/9): NYSPHSAA unveils six potential scenarios for high school sports (Josh St. Croix)

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association COVID-19 Task Force unveiled six potential scenarios for the 2020-21 school year following its most recent meeting last week that could result in drastic changes for Oswego County athletes and their peers around the state beginning this fall. The proposals, which were released by NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas last Friday, are meant to serve as a framework or starting point for the upcoming scholastic sports seasons. The document stated that no decisions will be made until direction for the academic year is provided by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Education. On Monday, Gov. Cuomo stated that no decision has been made on if schools will open in the fall but that all districts are required to have an opening plan in place. He has long been expected announce plans by the mid-July.


Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times (7/9): OHSAA proceeding for 2020 fall sports (Paul Boggs)

For the Ohio High School Athletic Association, it’s been a whirlwind —even a tumultuous —week. But still, for now, the governing body’s position for Ohio high school sports is to proceed forward for full fall activities in 2020. That was the primary point made this week in an e-mailed memo from OHSAA interim Executive Director Bob Goldring to member school administrators, as Goldring —who has named on Monday to replace the ousted Jerry Snodgrass as the association’s leader — wrote his first memo in his second stint as interim Executive Director. The e-mail was sent to member schools on Tuesday night and posted on the OHSAA’s website Wednesday morning, covering multiple topics focusing primarily on fall sports. And, it was an important one — as the association continues to work with the state government in response to the coronavirus threat.

Lisbon (Ohio) Morning Journal (7/10): Schools need football season (John Vargo)

An idea apparently is floating around on social media that the OHSAA might move football from the fall to the spring. … Banfield said he thought it was a good idea as a backup plan for the upcoming season if things turned for the worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Banfield also sent his idea to the other Northeast-8 Conference athletic directors. “It just so happened, an honest mistake, someone shared it within our group, put it out there and it went viral,” Banfield said. “It was just a brainstorming idea, just worst-case scenario. Let’s face it. It’s nearly impossible to run athletics for these kids in all programs if you don’t have a football season. “There’s no secret that football pays the bills and helps out with all programs and all student-athletes from tennis to baseball to golf to you name it for these kids to enter tournaments.” …  Football is the lifeblood of any Ohio athletic department and the OHSAA. The organization lost $1.2 million when the winter sports state tournaments — girls basketball, wrestling and boys basketball — were canceled because of coronavirus. Not having football would bankrupt the OHSAA, Banfield said.

Hot Springs (Ark.) Sentinel (7/10): Mountain Pine has no red flags in return (Rebecca Rector)

Athletic workouts at Mountain Pine School District were resumed Tuesday after being suspended for 14 days due to an unidentified individual involved with the athletic program testing positive for COVID-19. The Red Devils canceled practices for all sports for two weeks because of the potential exposure to the virus by students and personnel linked to the school’s athletic department. Mountain Pine athletic director James Galarza confirmed that for those who have returned to practice, complete and continuous adherence to the guidelines from the Arkansas Activities Ass

ociation and the Arkansas Department off Health is a top priority, as it was before the suspension.

Sumter (S.C.) Item (7/9): Smaller team size making workouts a little easier for Clarendon Hall (Tim Leible)

Playing 8-man football looks a lot different from 11-man football. With three fewer players on either side, the field opens up and there’s more space with which to work. That’s extremely helpful during the coronavirus pandemic, when social distancing is important. That fact isn’t lost on Clarendon Hall head coach Anthony Reitenour. “If we had a 70-man roster, what we’re doing right now would get destroyed. It would be almost impossible unless I had 20 volunteers to help me run it all,” said Reitenour. “My assistants and I are doing a great job of separating out and doing stuff with the groups we have, and it would definitely be a lot tougher with bigger groups. That is one luxury for us with 8-man, because we do have a smaller group.” Having a smaller group doesn’t just make it easier to practice. It also makes tracking exposure to the virus much simpler, so it’s easier for Clarendon Hall to stay healthy.

Associated Press (7/9): Big Ten to limit football, fall sports to conference games (John Zenor)

The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday it will not play nonconference games in football or several other sports this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league cited medical advice in reaching its decision, the biggest yet by a power conference, and added ominously that the plan would be applied only “if the conference is able to participate in fall sports.” … “By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic,” the Big Ten said in a statement. … The Big Ten said it would release detailed schedules at a later date and continue to evaluate other sports. (7/9): Reports: Pac-12 to move football, fall sports to conference-only

The Pac-12 is expected to plan for a conference-only fall sports schedule for the 2020 season, reported The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach. An announcement should come in the coming days, she added. College Football Talk’s Bryan Fischer also reported that the Pac-12 planned to cut non-conference games. Other sports leagues around the country were first to act amid growing concerns about the viability of college athletics during the coronavirus pandemic. (7/9): ACC delaying start of all fall sports until at least Sept. 1 (David M. Hale)

The ACC will delay the start of competition for all fall sports until at least Sept. 1, the league announced Thursday. The move, which follows a similar decision by the Patriot League, will affect several sports, including soccer and field hockey, but not football. The decision was unanimously approved by the ACC board of directors. … The ACC’s football schedule is set to begin on Sept. 2 when NC State visits Louisville.


Pittsburgh Action News-4 (7/8): Carnegie Mellon University announces it will not take part in fall sports

Carnegie Mellon University announced Wednesday afternoon it will not participate in sports this fall. “Over the past few months, we have explored every possible avenue for a safe return to play,” said Director of Athletics Josh Centor in an email message to Carnegie Mellon student-athletes. “In the message that I wrote to you last month, I noted that the health and safety of our students, staff and community members are at the forefront of every decision we make. With that as our guiding principle, we cannot appropriately return to sport at this time.” The university said the fall decision includes participation in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, football and volleyball.

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