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Area athletic directors wait on PIAA decision

It appeared to come out of nowhere. But its impact could be felt everywhere around the state.

The final question to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf following his Thursday press briefing dealt with fans attending high school sports this fall. But by the time Wolf finished addressing that question, he had delivered a bombshell to athletic programs across the state.

Wolf recommended that no youth sports be played until January of 2021 - that includes all PIAA sponsored high school sports this fall.

With most schools in our coverage area already conducting offseason workouts and the official start of fall sports practice less than a week away, it was a recommendation that most didn’t see coming.

The PIAA - the governing body of high school athletics in the state - posted the following comment on its website Thursday afternoon:

“Today, Governor Wolf issued a statement of strongly recommending no interscholastic and recreational sports until January 1st. We are tremendously disappointed in this decision. Our member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics.

“The PIAA Board of Directors will meet tomorrow afternoon, Friday, August 7, 2020, to review this action. PIAA will have an official statement tomorrow afternoon. Thank you.”

Area athletic directors were also surprised by the news.

“We had just held a Colonial League meeting yesterday and had voted to start the season on time,” Northern Lehigh Athletic Director Bryan Geist said on Thursday afternoon. “Obviously, this changes everything.

“After the recommendation from the governor and the department of health today, I can’t see any schools going against those recommendations and playing sports this fall.”

Panther Valley Athletic Director Kristin Black was part of a Schuylkill League meeting earlier in the day where members also voted on whether to start the season on time or delay it.

“What is happening with the virus literally changes things every month, every week, and even every day,” Black said. “We had just voted 14-4 to start the fall sports season on time, and just that quickly, it looks like that won’t be happening.

“I’m on board with whatever the governor and the PIAA decide. It’s a crazy time and there is no guide or manual to follow. Everyone is just trying to make the best decisions possible. The most important thing is that whatever is decided, it is in the best interest of the student/athletes.”

Both ADs also talked about getting some guidance on how they need to approach the upcoming school year and sports season.

“It’s frustrating because things seem to be changing on an hourly basis,” Geist said. “The Colonial League held an online meeting on Wednesday and we voted 8-5 to start the season on time. But there is not a whole lot we can do now. Like everyone else, we just have to wait and see what the PIAA says after its meeting.

“This is frustrating for everyone. Not just the athletes, but entire school districts. It’s students, athletes, teachers, coaches, administrators, athletic directors ... everyone is dealing with constantly changing scenarios.”

Black said that she believes getting everyone on the same page would be helpful.

“I believe we need the PIAA to come up with one plan. Make a decision on when we should begin play and then everyone goes with that plan,” Black said. “I’m not a fan of some leagues starting on one date, and others starting on another date. The same with different districts starting at different times.”

Geist added, “I’m hoping if the fall sports season is off, the PIAA will come up with a plan that allows all sports to play at some point during the school year. Because, if we aren’t playing in the fall, we somehow need to allow those athletes to get a chance at a season.

“There are some things already being tossed around like the ‘Nevada Plan’ where all three seasons are squeezed into the calendar between January and June, having two month seasons for all three.”

Geist said he is confident that athletic directors across the state can make it work.

“Just give us a start date and an end date for each season, and we’ll figure it out,” he said. “The bottom line is that we need to find a way to take care of our student/athletes.”