The PIAA Board of Directors remained on course to start fall sports and approved “Return to Competition” guidelines on Wednesday.
The guidelines passed by a 29-3 vote.
PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi and the board conceded Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and the state departments of education and health ultimately will have the final say in whether sports will be played this fall.
Lombardi said spectators initially will not be permitted to attend school athletic events this fall as per the guidelines.
“At this moment, spectators are not allowed (at games),” Lombardi said during a Q&A with media after the Zoom meeting.
The PIAA also presented several scheduling scenarios to adapt to potential COVID-19 related situations.
“PIAA is committed to maximizing the athletic opportunities for students across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” a statement released during the meeting said. “In addressing the COVID-19 crisis and how it has affected the 67 counties differently, PIAA understands the flexibility needed by school districts to make localized measured decisions, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach in addressing interscholastic athletics.
“To aid our school districts who have varied approaches to their return to school plans, PIAA has offered flexibility to schools, leagues, and/or conferences to begin contests after the first contest date. As we continue to move forward, PIAA will remain flexible in considering that certain sports may be impacted differently and post-season play may need to be modified.”
The “regular start” to the fall 2020 season includes the heat acclimatization date on Aug. 10. Practice for fall sports will begin on Aug. 17.
The first competitions will be held on Aug. 20 (golf), Aug. 24 (girls tennis), Aug. 28-29 (football) and Sept. 4 (cross country, girls volleyball, field hockey, and boys and girls soccer).
The PIAA recommends in the alternate schedule a first date of heat acclimatization no earlier than Aug. 10 and first practice no earlier than Aug. 17. Each sport must have the minimum length of preseason completed (three weeks for all sports except golf, which is three days; and tennis, which is one week). Sept. 18 would be the first game in football under the alternate schedule plan listed by the PIAA.
The third option is a hybrid start, which the PIAA stated, “As part of an alternative schedule, competition for fall sports should begin no later than Monday, October 5 or may be later with a request to the respective district
“Any combination of the established start dates or the alternative schedule must comply with the established pre-season practice guidelines and may be utilized to accommodate the needs of each local school, community, and sport,” the PIAA statement continued. “These alternative plans can be varied from sport to sport.”
On multiple occasions, Lombardi cited the phrase, “Protect yourself. Protect others. Protect the season.”