HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – There was a bombshell shift Thursday in the plans for high school sports.
The Wolf administration is recommending that school and recreational youth sports be postponed until 2021.
The governor’s office says this is a recommendation, not an order or a mandate, made by the departments of health and education.
“As with deciding whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning or a blend of the two this fall, school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports,” a press release says.
Today DOH + @PADeptofEd jointly recommended that Pre-K–12 school + recreational youth sports be postponed until at least Jan 1, 2021, to protect children + teens from #COVID19. This is a strong recommendation + not an order or mandate.
— PA Department of Health (@PAHealthDept) August 6, 2020
The administration pointed out that gathering limits remain unchanged — no more than 25 people are allowed to gather indoors, and no more than 250 outdoors. In Allegheny County, the outdoor limit is 50.
The state’s recommendation doesn’t apply to professional or collegiate sports.
This comes after Gov. Tom Wolf said the state’s recommendation is no sports until 2021 when asked about PIAA guidance on no fans at a press conference Thursday.
- WPIAL ‘Not Prepared’ For Gov. Wolf’s Comment Suggesting Schools Starting Online Should Cancel Fall Sports
- Gov. Tom Wolf Suggests Schools That Start Online Should Cancel Fall Sports
- School Districts Across Region Approving A Variety Of Return-To-School Plans
- WPIAL Pushes Back Start Dates Of Fall Sports
- PIAA To Move Forward With Fall Sports As Scheduled
- Pittsburgh Public Schools Board Votes For Online-Only Classes During First 9 Weeks
- Guidance From Gov. Wolf Allows High School And Recreational Sports Teams In ‘Yellow’ And ‘Green’ Counties To Resume Voluntary Workouts
The governor’s brief remark sparked emergency meetings across the state.
The WPIAL was shocked.
“Obviously you get a lot of phone calls, texts, emails right away,” said the WPIAL Assistant to the Executive Director Vince Sortino.
The PIAA had decided to move forward with fall sports as scheduled but would offer “flexibility to schools, leagues, and/or conferences to begin contests after the first contest date.” Using that information, the WPIAL decided to use a “hybrid start,” meaning fall sports wouldn’t begin any later than Oct. 5 and there would be different start dates for different sports.
Sortino said the WPIAL is going to wait for more guidance from PIAA because it just sent out the fall schedules to every school district.
“What we’re telling our member schools is that we’re status quo until we get official notification from the state,” said Sortino.
He said WPIAL wants more guidance because only one district in our area — Uniontown — decided against playing football and soccer this fall.
“The governor is completely off the rails here,” said House Republican Caucus Spokesperson Jason Gottesman. “He has effectively canceled high school sports until 2021. That’s just inconsistent, it’s unjustifiable. He provided no data.”
Jason Gottesman says House Republicans want to know why now.
“Not only did he not consult with the General Assembly, but he didn’t consult with the PIAA who is, as we speak, in the middle of a emergency meeting trying to figure out what they need to do.”
PIAA Update: pic.twitter.com/ue7q7xQy9U
— PIAA (@PIAASports) August 6, 2020
The PIAA tweeted a response Thursday afternoon following its emergency meeting saying it will meet again on Friday, Aug. 7.
The brief statement reads: “We are tremendously disappointed in this decision. Our member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics.”