While the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association hopes to start fall sports on time, challenges await as the state navigates the coronavirus pandemic.
On July 16, Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association and Wyoming Valley Conference officials participated in a video-conference call one day after the PIAA’s announcement it is staying on schedule for now.
Attendance at fall sporting events dominated the talks during the District 2 athletic committee meeting. The committee addressed questions as to how contests would be safely conducted within the state’s guidelines that include a limit of 250 people at an outdoor gathering.
District 2 chairman Frank Majikes, who is also the president of the PIAA Board of Directors, clarified that players, coaches and officials count as part of that 250 capacity, raising questions about attendance of spectators.
“To the best of our knowledge and getting interpretations from the state people, when you say 250 allowed into a stadium, that 250 includes participants,” Majikes said. “So, there is a misunderstanding in the public eye that they believe 250 means 250 spectators. The participants are included in that number. So, there will be more information regarding the numbers depending on what phase we are in.”
Majikes, in discussion with committee member and website moderator Mike Ognosky, said plans are being formulated to provide links for schools to live stream events online. Also, that the National Federation of High School Associations has offered all the schools in the country cameras that would help in streaming contests. More information would be provided to the schools on these options.
Pittston Area athletic director Charlie Turco sought a district-wide policy regarding who would be allowed to attend contests. Majikes stressed any decision must comply with the state’s guidelines. However, the meeting adjourned with the understanding that those decisions would be made by the schools of the LIAA and the WVC, the leagues that make up District 2.
Majikes also informed the committee, and stressed, that the decision-making at the PIAA level is fluid with the changing health risks and concerns, and will follow the directives of Gov. Tom Wolf, the Department of Health and the Department of Education.
“We will proceed and review, eliminate and modify as we have to depending upon what occurs between the governor, the Department of Health, the Department of Education,” Majikes said. “But it is a consensus that we should provide every opportunity possible for our student-athletes to participate in conjunction with the directives and the guidance we receive from the state.”
The PIAA’s steering committees will met over three days, starting July 20. Information gathered from those sessions was discussed at a strategic planning committee meeting July 28 and a PIAA Board of Directors meeting will be held today.
“We will meet to review or modify,” Majikes said. “We have literature, recommendations and solutions we are hoping they accept in regard to returning to competition.”
In addition, Majikes pointed out that if the fall sports season progresses and a school has a COVID-19 incident, it is the responsibility of the principal of that school to inform him of the protocol it will follow, which should include informing all parties it impacts.
Should events be postponed or declared no-contest, it could change the implementation of the district’s Power Rating system for postseason qualification. Adjustments to how the district will utilize that system and the number of qualifiers for postseason will be discussed at a future date.
“We did discuss, if we run districts and or state games and we run into a problem that is COVID related and a team that was advancing or playing, it would not be penalized with a forfeit,” Majikes said. “We will use flexibility and consider it no contest if we get to that stage. Permission has been granted to that.”