Pennsylvania high school athletics will follow the lead of professional sports by starting upcoming seasons without any fans in the stands.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association announced this week that it’s moving forward with prep sports as planned, while the seasons will start with only student-athletes, coaches, officials and staff in attendance.
The PIAA’s announcement stressed that they didn’t have a choice when it came to fan attendance, as they are following the guidelines set forth by Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf. Wolf’s latest sports guidance was updated July 15, with the pre-kindergarten through high school section stating that counties will be allowed to play sports as long as they are in the yellow and green phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sports won’t be allowed in the red phase.
“The decision to resume sports-related activities, including conditioning practices and games, is the discretion of a school entity’s governing body,” the release from the governor’s office reads. “Any sports-related activities in Yellow or Green phased counties must adhere to the gathering limitations set forth by the Governor’s Plan for Phased Reopening (25 in yellow, 250 outdoors and 25 indoors in green) and the facility as a whole may not exceed 50% of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law. During the Yellow and Green phases of reopening, sports-related activities at the PK-12 level are limited to student athletes, coaches, officials, and staff only. The addition of visitors and spectators will be contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities.”
PIAA’s Wednesday release spelled out that the regular schedule allows football practice to start Aug. 10, while the rest of the sports can start Aug. 17 and the first competitions begin Aug. 20. An alternate start date plan would push contest dates back to Sept. 14 at the earliest, while there’s also room for hybrid plans.
“PIAA is committed to maximizing the athletic opportunities for student across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” the association said. “In addressing the COVID-19 crisis and how it has affected the 67 counties differently, PIAA understands the flexibility needed by school districts to make localized measured decisions, rather than a “one size fits all” approach in addressing interscholastic athletics.”