Last week, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) said it believes it can safely sponsor fall sports, They then asked Gov. Tom Wolf for further recommendations on how to proceed safely. The Governor told the governing body he thinks they should cancel everything until at least 2021.
The PIAA was not happy with that “recommendation” and asked the Governor for more discussion on the matter. In their statement, released on Friday of last week, they said they feel that delaying sports will have a “potential negative impact on the students’ physical, social, emotional, and mental health.” They added, “These issues, along with the financial inability of many students to participate in any other form of non-school based athletic programs affect all students directly or indirectly.”
Nevertheless, the board decided to put a two-week pause on things, with the exception of voluntary workouts with “local approval.”
Today, another governing body of interscholastic sports in Pennsylvania let the governor know they are on the same page as the PIAA. The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) held a press conference where they echoed the PIAA’s stance and then some. Here’s what they said, as reported by local ABC affiliate, WTAE:
- WPIAL officials said only golf and tennis will need to alter their first competitions and scrimmages by one week.
- Every other sport will be able to continue as planned on July 31, just with a later start date for practices.
- In late July, the WPIAL announced a later start to the high school football season, pushing it back to Sept. 10 with a shorter season.
- WPIAL officials called the recommendation from the Wolf and company to cancel/postpone sports until Jan. 1 “uncalculated, inconsistent and unfair,” saying the data does not show a significant increase in adolescent athletes, citing data from the Allegheny County Health Department for July.
- WPIAL officials pointed at risks of isolation, such as anxiety and depression, if sports were to be postponed.
So it looks like the State of Pennsylvania and the governing bodies of almost all of their sports programs are heading for a showdown. It is unlikely that the two sides will come to an agreement on what is best. The boards seem adamant about having as much of a “normal” fall schedule as possible. On the other hand, the governor will be forced to either stay with his “recommendation” or back off and allow sports to happen.
Of course, in this age of the coronavirus pandemic, it is unknown whether the mental health of student-athletes will be improved from having a fall season or will outbreaks occur, further worsening the virus’s impact.
Check out this report about the current state of affairs with Pennsylvania sports from local affiliate KDKA:
Earlier this summer, the PIAA also said they would prohibit parents from watching their children’s events. That already has many parents upset with some even planning on finding ways to circumvent the rules. Other parents insist that they can watch the games safely if given the chance.
The Governor has already had troubles with rebellions from Republicans in the legislature over just about everything during the pandemic including issues about masks, quarantine rules and lengths, and the governor’s seemingly strange and what some may call inconsistent rules for bars and restaurants. There has been no word if the legislature will get involved in this matter, but the way the GOP has fought with Wolf so far this year, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if they did.
Stay tuned, it is going to be a wild ride in Pennsylvania over the next month or so.