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EDITORIAL: PIAA needs to make hard decision to delay, shorten winter sports season

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • The PIAA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
  • At that meeting, the PIAA should decide to delay and shorten the winter sports season.
  • The current surge in COVID-19 cases makes a full winter sports campaign an unnecessary risk.
Central York coach Scott Wisner talks to his team during a timeout last season. The Panthers saw their 2019-2020 season halted in the state quarterfinals by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020-2021 winter sports games are set to start Friday, Dec. 11.

It’s a hard decision.

It’s one the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association desperately wants to avoid.

Still, it’s a decision that has to be made.

It’s time for the governing body of high school sports in Pennsylvania to announce that the 2020-21 winter season will be delayed and shortened. Given the current COVID-19 surge that has engulfed the state, it is the only sensible decision.

The PIAA Board of Directors is set to meet on Wednesday, Nov. 18. At that time, the organization should announce that the winter season games, currently scheduled to start on Friday, Dec. 11, will be halted until after New Year’s Day. Additionally, the PIAA should prohibit all tournament and nonleague contests (excluding the PIAA playoffs) for the entire winter season.

Only league contests should be permitted until the state playoffs, and those state playoffs should be severely truncated when it comes to determining how many teams qualify. The district and state postseason should also feature a one-and-done format — no consolation contests.

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It’s a format that the PIAA instituted for the fall sports season and they should also institute that same plan for the winter. In the current climate, a full winter sports season is an unnecessary risk.

If possible, let fall season finish out: Since there are only a few select teams remaining, the PIAA should go ahead and try to conclude the fall sports playoffs for football, soccer, field hockey and volleyball.

Soccer, field hockey and volleyball are scheduled to conclude their state playoffs this coming Saturday, Nov. 21, while the football playoffs are set to conclude on Saturday, Nov. 28.

It’s arguable, given the current dire COVID-19 situation, that even the state fall playoffs should be immediately halted. The PIAA did just that in the spring when the pandemic first erupted. The current COVID-19 situation could be considered even worse. Numerous teams have already forfeited district or state playoff games because of COVID-19 issues.

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With more schools going to virtual-only learning on an almost-daily basis, more state playoff forfeits are certainly possible, if not probable, in the days to come.

Still, no one wants to see our teenagers see their state championship dreams squashed. So go ahead and try to finish the fall sports. Given the small number of schools left in the postseason, the danger of those events causing “super-spreader” outbreaks should be relatively small, as long as everyone follows all relevant protocols. If the schools involved feel OK with their individual COVID-19 situations, let’s give those kids a chance to live out their life-long dreams.

After fall season ends, hit the pause button: Once the fall postseason ends on Thanksgiving weekend, however, it’s time to hit the pause button on scholastic games until at least Monday, Jan. 4.

It will hopefully give us some needed breathing room in the ongoing battle against the coronavirus. Maybe by then, a vaccine will be readily available and the current surge will have waned.

The PIAA certainly won’t want to make that decision. The organization is in the business of promoting athletic opportunities for our kids, not denying those opportunities. If the PIAA opts to delay winter sports, the organization will surely get massive blowback from irate coaches, players and parents.

Sometimes, however, life gets in the way of our best-laid plans. This is one of those times.

It’s time for prudence and safety to take precedence.