Recent events and a history of near-misses has high schools taking a hard look at their sideline regulations and who really needs to be standing there. During a game last month between Scranton (Ohio) Prep and Valley View, coach and statistician Anthony Cantafio of Scranton Prep fell and hit his head on an asphalt track circling the field when a Valley View football player was run out of bounds. He was rendered unconscious and later died from the injury.
Scranton Prep athletic director Scott Gower told The Times Tribune, “When incidents like these happen, you heighten your awareness. It’s always been preached to pay attention and to stay alert. When unfortunate things like this happen, you preach it even more.”
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association requires all sideline observers to stay outside of the coaches’ box, or two yards back from the sideline between the 25-yard lines, when the ball is in play. It does not regulate the number of people allowed on the sidelines, leaving that to the discretion of the schools.
Paul Sheehan, rules interpreter for the PIAA, explained its position, saying, “They have to allow the people on the field. If they’re there and they’re behind the 2-yard restraining line and they’re just doing their job and they’re not interrupting and they’re not giving the officials a hard time and are not in the way, we’re really not concerned with who’s there.”
This puts the responsibility on schools to tighten their policies for the protection of nonessential personnel on the sidelines.
Valley View superintendent Tom Quinn says the school is evaluating the environmental hazards of its playing field following Cantafio’s death. It is considering the viability of installing a thick rubber pad to cover the asphalt surrounding the field, at least in the most high-risk areas.
“We’re still in the brainstorming stages knowing that winter is coming. Spring will be a time to implement something and have it more than ready by summer practices,” he said.