PIAA Calls Two-Week Timeout On Fall Sports

Aug 8, 2020

High school fall sports have not been canceled yet, but mandatory sports activities have been paused for two weeks. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association said Friday it was delaying sports amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, though it said it believes schools can safely move forward with their programs under new COVID-19 precautions.

The move came one day after Pennsylvania's Health and Education departments released a joint statement Thursday calling for all PreK-12 sports to hold off until January 2021. The new recommendation echoed statements made by Gov. Tom Wolf in a press conference earlier that day. The administration cited the danger of spreading COVID-19 amid large gatherings.

The PIAA said Thursday it was disappointed in the state's guidance, which came after member schools developed new health and safety guidelines to allow interscholastic sports to begin on time. After a PIAA board meeting Friday, the association released a statement calling to delay the start of activity for two weeks.

But the PIAA said it hopes to work with the Wolf administration to further discuss how to proceed with the season. It also said that as talks progress, the association would seek insight from the Pennsylvania General Assembly. PA House GOP leadership spoke out against canceling fall sports Thursday.

The Wolf administration said the January postponement is strongly recommended, but not required. As with how to resume academic classes, the decision could fall to school administrators.

In the meantime, teams are permitted to continue voluntary workouts —activities that soccer and football teams have already started for the year. 

The Sto-Rox High School football team plans to continue training while they wait for more direction. Training started for the Sto-Rox Vikings’ season in mid-July, and special teams coordinator Chris Taylor said his team has adopted COVID-19 precautions in conditioning exercises this year.

“At the beginning of practice, they get their temperatures checked. They have masks on. They're spaced out," he said.

Taylor said he’ll be disappointed to see the season postponed, but the safety of his athletes must come first.

“They're not just an athlete. They're a student, athlete and a human being,” he said. “It's a little bit deeper than just sports.”

The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic League, which oversees athletics in the Pittsburgh region, said in a statement Friday that it "respectfully requests time to digest all information and develop an approach.” WPIAL officials will hold a press conference Monday at 10 a.m.

The PIAA said it would reconvene its board members Aug. 21, but hopes to collaborate with state officials over the next two weeks to create a plan that allows for fall programs to start. The Wolf administration had not responded to comments by PIAA or WPIAL as of Friday evening.