Postponing of Fall sports suggested by officials
Four days before football practice was to start, athletes learned that Gov. Tom Wolf is recommending postponing all fall sports in Pennsylvania until at least January.
During a Thursday news conference, Wolf responded to a reporter’s question by saying that the state is recommending both school and recreational youth sports be postponed until Jan. 1, 2021, to protect children and teens from COVID-19.
“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,” Wolf said.
There had been no guidance received prior to the conference, but a short time later the governor’s website was updated with new guidance from the state Health Department and state Department of Education. That guidance says the state is providing “this strong recommendation and not an order or mandate.” The recommendation to pause youth sports until Jan. 1, 2021, applies to team and individual, school and non-school recreational youth sports and includes competitions, intramural play and scrimmages. Athletes can continue conditioning, drills and other training activities on an individual basis. The state’s guidance does not apply to collegiate and professional sports. Gathering limits remain unchanged – no more than 25 persons may gather indoors and 250 outdoors.
Wolf’s announcement and subsequent guidance are a sharp reversal for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and high school athletes. Recently, the PIAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee unanimously agreed that sports could be played, which led the PIAA board to announce last week that fall sports could start as scheduled. That meant heat acclimatization for football was to start Monday with practices for all other fall sports to begin Aug. 17. The association also had an alternate schedule option that would have allowed sports to begin Sept. 14 with games starting by Oct. 5. A few leagues in central Pennsylvania have decided to use the hybrid option.
Republicans in the House of Representatives almost immediately sent out a statement criticizing Wolf’s statement, starting with the thought that local school districts and the PIAA have been working on plans to resume sports because they had been told the decision would be up to local school districts. Dr. Rachel Levine, state health commissioner, had said earlier this week that guidance for high school sports would be released this week.
“In making his announcement, the governor did not justify why a place like Sullivan County that has five confirmed cases, must be treated the same as Allegheny County or Philadelphia,” said Jason Gottesman, House Republican Caucus spokesperson. “In fact, he provided no data or justification at all. For reasons beyond understanding, the governor waited until practices have already started, equipment has already been purchased, fees have already been paid, and dreams of a return to normalcy have already been formed by athletes and families alike. What is to become of student-athletes seeking scholarships? Why can professional sports and recreational leagues play events, but not PIAA sports? Why did this decision have to even be made today without consulting anyone in the people’s branch of government? These are just a few of the questions left unanswered by this unjustified and inconsistent decision.”