PIAA has viable option to prevent teams from using COVID-19 to duck tough football foes
It’s not surprising that some Pennsylvania high school athletic teams have been accused of using COVID-19 as an excuse to weasel out of playing tough opponents.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association had an opportunity to tackle that problem. Instead, it punted.
Discussions were held at Wednesday’s board meeting about whether to make teams forfeit if they cancel a game because they can’t field a team because too many players are sick or quarantined.
I suggested that weeks ago, as a way to pressure more people, including high school students, into getting vaccinated.
Game days are sacred for high school athletes, whether it’s football, tennis or swimming. They get only so many of them. They prepare hard.
I remember my varsity baseball days fondly. There was no way I would miss a game, or even a practice. While it wasn’t always easy, I rearranged everything else, including my work schedule, studying time and social life to make sure I was there.
Use that love for the game as leverage. If you don’t get your shots and can’t play as a result, you lose.
That’s the solution.
Mystifying PIAA decision: It’s mystifying that the PIAA board didn’t adopt it Wednesday, considering its other recent tougher actions on COVID.
Tuesday, the PIAA said unvaccinated referees and other game officials will not be eligible to work interdistrict playoff contests, in any sport, in the fall.
And Wednesday, it formally recommended all eligible student-athletes, coaches, athletic personnel and officials get vaccinated, in accordance with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Federation of State High School Associations.
But the PIAA still will give teams that cancel because of COVID-19 the benefit of the doubt, allowing them a chance to reschedule the contest.
The board adopted guidance that says if a team is unable to reschedule a game, it will not have to forfeit if it convinces its district committee “that it made reasonable efforts to avoid an outbreak and that its failure to participate was unavoidable,” the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
“Board members were concerned hearing from their constituents and membership that they think ‘School A’ may be ducking somebody,” PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi told the Tribune-Review. “Or they have a squad of 45 (players) and eight are out. … That’s some of the anecdotal information that was given to the board, so they felt we should reduce this to writing.”
"Horror stories:" Bob Hartman, Whitehall High School’s athletic director and a PIAA board vice president, told The Morning Call’s Keith Groller there have been “horror stories” about schools not wanting to play because key individuals are out because of COVID-19.
“We’ve heard ‘our starting quarterback is out so we can’t play’ but you do have a backup,” Hartman said. “Or an offensive tackle is out, well then you might need to slide the tight end down to that position.
“Now we know one size doesn’t fit all. Roster sizes are different for everybody, but the focus is on keeping the kids on the fields and basketball courts and so on and getting them to participate.”
Myocarditis issue addressed: Before recommending that student-athletes get vaccinated, the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee discussed on Aug. 2 concerns by parents and students about myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that has been linked to COVID vaccinations.
Committee member Dr. Matthew Silvis of Hershey presented his research that there have been about 1,200 cases reported out of about 295 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Silvis said the risk of myocarditis following a vaccination “is very, very low in adolescents and young adults” and must be weighed against the risk of developing myocarditis after being infected with COVID-19, which “appears to be significantly higher.”
Wolf asks for PIAA help: Gov. Tom Wolf asked the PIAA if it could assist his office with encouraging individuals involved in athletics to get vaccinated, according to minutes of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee meeting on Aug. 23. The governor’s office told PIAA that only about 49% of students aged 12-18 years were vaccinated.
Committee member David McBain, athletic director of the West Allegheny School District near Pittsburgh, said the key to getting students vaccinated is “to be able to incentivize it,” according to the minutes.
What better incentive than to tell them their team will lose if it’s sidelined by the coronavirus?