| York Daily Record
York High basketball falls short by one shot in PIAA tournament
Mars held on for a 60-59 victory against York High in the second round of the PIAA Class 5A boys’ basketball tournament Tuesday, March 12, 2019.
The PIAA is still on track to begin winter sports, despite calls from schools and principals to delay the season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, the PIAA’s board meeting began with a request from State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell to delay the start of winter sports until Feb. 1.
PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi also acknowledged receiving a letter Wednesday from the Pennsylvania Principals Association asking the PIAA to delay the start of the season as many schools move to virtual learning or continue to implement state restrictions in order to keep buildings open.
However, no motion was made to delay the season during Wednesday’s meeting.
That means the PIAA still plans to start the season on time this Friday. Many leagues have delayed the start of theirseasons by only a week. The YAIAA and Mid-Penn both plan to begin play Dec. 18. The Lancaster-Lebanon League voted to start on time, but with its league schedule pushed back to the start of January.
When asked about the calls to delay, Lombardi said the organization favored giving schools “flexibility” by starting the season on time and pushing back postseason deadlines. He called extending the season and giving schools more flexible schedules “a stroke of genius.”
He said that he believes sports are essential activities when asked about starting competitions with COVID cases continuing to rise throughout Pennsylvania.
“I think extracurriculars are part of the educational day and carry very high value,” Lombardi said. “I think everyone is concerned about health and safety as illustrated by the health and safety plans that every school adopts.
“We have not seen any data to say by Jan. 1 would be better than Dec. 11 (as a start date).”
Lombardi added that he hasn’t had any correspondence with Gov. Tom Wolf’s office regarding additional state restrictions that could lead to the shutdown of winter sports. He wished Wolf a quick recovery after the governor tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday.
In his request to the PIAA, State College’s O’Donnell pointed out that hospitals in the State College area have been at maximum capacity in recent weeks.
O’Donnell added that he is a former high school basketball coach and a proponent of high school athletics.
“The delay would allow us to begin the distribution of the vaccine and hopefully see a better outlook as it relates to the virus and the commonwealth,” O’Donnell said. “If we move forward right now, our district will need to seriously consider opting out of competition.”
The PIAA also passed a motion that if there is a disagreement between competing schools over whether athletes have to wear masks during a contest, the game will be declared “no contest” and not a forfeit if the game is not played.
When asked about that situation arising during the postseason, Lombardi said the PIAA will have to “set up conditions” on a potential forfeit in that situation.
Many leagues, including the Lancaster-Lebanon League and the Mid-Penn, have implemented mandates for athletes to wear masks during competitions, with the exception of swimmers and divers. YAIAA executive director Chuck Abbott confirmed Wednesday that YAIAA athletes will have to wear masks during competition.
The PIAA also passed a motion by a 23-8 vote that if a team misses more than seven consecutive days of practice due to a school closure, it will need to have two practices before it resumes competitions. Teams will need to get in three practices if they miss more than 10 consecutive days and four practices if they miss more than 14 consecutive days.
Andy Goodman, a legislative consultant to the PIAA, said toward the end of Wednesday’s meeting that the organization needs to be ready for more restrictions as the pandemic continues throughout the winter.
“Hospitals are seeing dramatic numbers from what it was earlier this year, ICU numbers and beds are limited. And it is putting (Wolf’s) administration in a position where things are going to get very difficult,” Goodman said. “I think everyone would agree with me that the first responders, the physicians, the nurses, the PA’s that are out there, we really owe a great gratitude of debt to them. They are in a position where if they’re getting overrun, the administration is going to have to make those decisions.
“I’m not saying I know anything right now. But looking at the numbers, I think we all should be prepared for that, and frankly, the closure of hospitals is something none of us can accept.”
There will be significant changes to the state playoffs this season due to COVID.
The PIAA passed a motion Wednesday that only district champions will advance to the PIAA basketball playoffs this season in effort to shorten the postseason. The PIAA passed the same measure for fall sports this school year.
The change will reduce the number of state qualifiers from 32 to 12 in all classifications. In recent years, many teams have been able to lose early in the District 3 tournament and still qualify for states by winning consolation games. The District 3 Class 5A boys’ tournament has sent nine qualifiers to states in recent years.
In wrestling, the PIAA will create a “super regional” tournament that will take place between the regional and state tournaments. There will be two “super regional” tournaments in both Class 2A and 3A.
That move was made to make it easier to only have eight wrestlers in each weight class in every tournament of the postseason. The plan will be for four wrestlers in each weight class from both “super regional” tournaments to make the state tournament.
The number of swimming qualifiers has been reduced from 32 to 16 in each class.
Matt Allibone is a sports reporter for GameTimePA. He can be reached at 717-881-8221, email@example.com or on Twitter at @bad2theallibone.