The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and its Board of Directors "paused" high school sports in the state for two weeks following Gov. Tom Wolf's surprise Aug. 6 recommendation to not play until 2021. They decision allows the state association a chance to work with the governor and Health and Education departments on finding common ground to being playing in the fall.
"Consistent with the advice of the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, PIAA continues to believe it can safely sponsor fall sports," it wrote in a press release. "On Aug. 21, the Board will reconvene. Between now and then, voluntary workouts, per the Governor's Guidance for All Sports, and with local approval, may continue. Mandatory fall sports activities are paused for the two week period. The PIAA remains committed to providing a season for each of the sports during the 2020-2021 school year."
The PIAA's reaction came about 24 hours after Wolf, in a daily press conference, was asked about fans being allowed at high school sporting events.
Instead of responding specifically to that, he referenced all youth sports and a recommendation from the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education.
"The guidance is we ought to avoid any congregant settings, and that means, anything that brings people together is going to help that virus get us and we ought to do everything we can to defeat the virus at any time," he said. "So anytime we get together for any reason, that's a problem because it makes it easier for that virus to spread. So with guidance from us, the recommendation is that we don't do any sports until Jan. 1."
He then left the podium without taking follow-up questions.
That sent the PIAA scrambling, especially after the state's governing body for high school sports had laid out an exhaustive and comprehensive plan featuring regular and alternative starts that would allow "flexibility to schools, leagues, and/or conferences to begin contests after the first contest date."
Under the regular plan, heat acclimatization dates would begin Aug. 10 and first day of practice Aug. 17, with contests for golf and tennis to start within a week and football for Aug. 28. The alternative plan had games starting the week of Sept. 14.
Following Wolf's comments, the PIAA met Thursday, saying after "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."
In addition to its Friday announcement "pausing" activity, the PIAA is seeking to partner with Wolf and the Health and Education departments on a collaborative solution while also asking the state's General Assembly to weigh in.
"(We've) heard from thousands of voices of student-athletes, parents, coaches, and community leaders," the PIAA wrote. "The Board believes that the Governor's strong recommendation to delay sports to Jan. 1, 2021 has a potential negative impact on the students' physical, social, emotional and mental health."