The PIAA is pushing on with plans to start winter sports seasons Friday night.
No action on delaying winter sports was taken during a meeting of the PIAA Board of Directors Wednesday afternoon, although State College superintendent Bob O’Donnell addressed the board in the visitor comment section and requested a delay until Feb. 1. The Pennsylvania Principals Association also sent a letter to the PIAA requesting that winter sports be delayed.
It was widely rumored on social media late Tuesday night that the PIAA would delay the winter seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic and the possibility that Gov. Tom Wolf’s office would announce more restrictive indoor gathering limitations Wednesday. No such announcement was made.
The next PIAA meeting is scheduled for Jan. 6, but president Frank Majikes did say that date could change, pending what Gov. Wolf’s office announces.
Some PIAA-member leagues already have announced delays to the winter sports seasons but the WPIAL is not among them. Basketball, wrestling and swimming seasons are scheduled to start Friday, though season-opening tournaments in those sports have been canceled. There are 10 basketball games involving local teams scheduled for Friday and eight more on Saturday.
Even as COVID-19 cases throughout the state continue to rise, the PIAA is taking the same approach that it did with fall sports – play as many games as possible.
“We have not seen any data why Jan. 1 would be better than Dec. 11, or why Jan. 15 would be better than Feb. 1,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said.
The PIAA did make some significant changes to its postseason tournaments in basketball, wrestling and swimming, and made a decision about what will be considered a “no contest” if there is a disagreement about wearing masks or face coverings during competition.
Among the changes approved:
n Only district champions will advance to the state basketball and team wrestling tournaments. That means only 12 teams in a bracket.
n The addition of a super regional for individual wrestling.
n Only eight wrestlers in each bracket for the state individual wrestling tournament.
n PIAA swimming will be cut from 32 competitors to 16 for each event.
n The minimum game standard for playoff eligibility has been waived. Each district will determine its standard.
n Teams that have competitions postponed can make up contests through the final day of the postseason. This is similar to a rule used in fall sports.
n Any game canceled because of COVID-19 will be considered a no contest. Also, any game canceled because of a disagreement between schools over the wearing of masks in competition will also be a no contest instead of a forfeit.
n If a team is shut down because of COVID-19 issues, a sliding scale will be used to determine when it can return to competition, assuming the team has already completed the required 15 practices before the start of a season. Any team that is shut down for seven days can return after two practices. If shut down for 10 days, the team must practice three times before playing. A two-week shutdown will require four practices before playing.
n Masks will be considered supplemental equipment on wrestling. Lombardi explained that if one comes off during a scoring situation, the referee will not stop the action.