For students and coaches, the vaccine is recommended by the PIAA.By Chris Hoffman

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The PIAA is taking another step to ensure the protection of student-athletes.

It’s requiring all officials for state playoff games and tournaments to be vaccinated.

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At this point, it’s only the state playoffs. Regular season and WPIAL playoff referees are not required to be vaccinated.

“We are trying to do our part by having our officials vaccinated,” PIAA Assistant Executive Director Pat Gebhart said.

The PIAA came to this decision after its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee came to the recommendation.

“They’ve met very frequently over the last couple of years since COVID came upon us,” Gebhart said over Zoom.

Coaches and athletic directors feel this is another level of protection for students, fans and coaches.

“When more people are vaccinated, the better off we all are going to be so we can keep getting people in their athletic venue,” North Allegheny Athletic Director Roberto Bozzuto said.

After the challenges of last year, the hope is to avoid all that.

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“Officials, coaches, athletic administrators, fans, what we experienced last year was so difficult,” Bozzuto said. “We realized the need to keep things as normal as possible.”

“I hope it doesn’t start back up in the sports for the high school kids because it was bad last year. A lot of kids were under-recruited because of it,” Clairton football coach Wayne Wade said.

There is concern that this decision from the PIAA will drive some refs away from being an official. This comes as there is already a shortage.

“You’re talking about being down even more officials. So yeah, that’s a good concern if it happens that way,” Wade said.

PIAA leaders feel they will have enough officials to get through the fall sports state championships. It can’t afford to have its tournaments delayed by COVID-19.

“It’s very difficult to postpone a football game to the following week. You can’t do it,” Gebhart said. “The tournament moves on.”

At its board meeting on Sept. 20, the WPIAL plans to discuss the idea of having officials be vaccinated.

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For students and coaches, the vaccine is recommended by the PIAA. The PIAA can’t mandate it for them.