Despite some opposition from parents, regional youth football league cancels 2020 season

The (Carlisle) Sentinel (TNS)

The CFA Youth Football League, which spans an area roughly the size of PIAA’s District 3 in the midstate, has canceled its 2020 fall season.

The league made the announcement in a Facebook post Monday night. The CFA includes 32 youth football associations, including the following York County teams: Dover Eagles, York Bears, Red Land Patriots and Northern Polar Bears.

Games were scheduled to begin Aug. 22 and run through the end of October.

CFA head commissioner Keith Newkam said he and assistant commissioners Brad Humer, Joe Wilson, Nicole Adams, Marv Gregg and Bob Stone made the call to cancel the season.

“We discussed all the different trials and tribulations that were involved with all the COVID-19 guidelines, and it just came to the point where the practicality to do it, and do it safely, and not affect the safety of the players, the safety of the parents, the safety of the rest of the family, so on — it just didn’t seem viable,” Newkam said.

Some parents upset: Some comments on the league’s Facebook announcement expressed disappointment or anger that parents weren’t allowed to make the decision. CFA associations are run mostly by parents of athletes in the league, said Newkam, 63, who hasn’t had a kid in the league since 2001.

“I do this because I love football and I want the kids to play,” he said, particularly empathizing with the eighth-graders who will not have one last youth football season before entering high school. “Believe me, I would love nothing more than the kids to play this season.”

Newkam said he is aware the decision is hardly popular, but he is confident the league made the right decision. He has heard from one league in western Pennsylvania that will likely cancel its season as well, and two nearby leagues have already done so.

“I think you’re gonna see an awful lot of leagues,” do the same thing, Newkam said.

High school issues: The decision came on the same day Shippensburg high school shut down voluntary offseason football workouts for two weeks after a player reported a positive test for COVID-19. Lampeter-Strasburg football in Lancaster County also suspended football workouts due to a positive test result, and The Sentinel reported Monday Cedar Cliff boys soccer and field hockey suspended workouts due to positive test results.

Newkam said Shippensburg's workout postponement, the Patriot League canceling its fall season, and the possibility the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and PIAA cancel their fall sports weighed on him.

He said he thinks the PSAC, home of Shippensburg University, and the PIAA are likely to cancel.

Roughly half of the CFA’s associations play games at their local high schools, Newkam said. If the PIAA were to cancel the high school football season, or if school districts were forced to close this fall, those youth teams would not be able to hold games.

And under Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines, associations would face a logistical nightmare with four games in a day at one field while trying to stay under the maximum allowed 250 people in one venue.

Logistical problems: Newkam also said the league, which features about 3,800 players, would face other logistical issues if it attempted to start a season only to then shut it down, including returning player dues, collecting uniforms and performing the other necessary tasks to shut down the league midseason.

Newkam also questioned how feasible it would be for volunteer coaches to uphold all the necessary sanitizing and social distancing guidelines required by the state if a season did take place.

Participation was not a problem, though. Newkam said “only a few teams” said they had trouble fielding a full roster.

Newkam has been in charge of the CFA as head commissioner for five years and involved with the league since the late 1990s when it consisted of just 12 associations.

Worried about possible fallout: He said he feared seeing any of the kids fall seriously ill or dying, and the likely fallout and possible lawsuits if that happened which would “end” the CFA.

"One death, or one serious illness — OK, is it really worth it?" he said.

The state Department of Health says children 0-18 years old make up just 5% of the state’s 95,742 positive cases as of Monday at noon, and data suggests kids are less likely to have serious side effects or die from COVID-19.

But it is not a risk Newkam said he is comfortable with, and he also recognizes the risks families, including those with older or at-risk relatives in the house, face.

Spring option not feasible: Newkam said the 32 associations initially voted 17-15 in favor of having the season. But after further discussion, the league decided to have the six commissioners decide the fate of the season.

The commissioners had decided previously to delay the season two weeks if it was held; the first week of practice was scheduled for July 27. There was no second option, Newkam said, and moving the season to the spring in direct competition with other sports like baseball isn't feasible.

“I know that our decision was the best decision,” he said.