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PIAA board of directors to discuss possibility of county-by-county restart for prep sports

CHRIS HARLAN
(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi.

Could the PIAA take a county-by-county approach to restarting sports or should the entire state resume summer workouts at the same time?

“We want to have that discussion,” said PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi, who expects that question and others related to the coronavirus shutdown will be addressed Wednesday when the PIAA board meets online.

“We don’t want to have one person driving the decision,” he said. “We want to have a discussion of 32 people who have good minds and a lot of experience in athletics. Let’s talk about competitive balance. Let’s talk about fairness. Let’s talk about opening up, because it could be weeks (between when the first and last counties are ready). Why have people sit?

“Those questions are all part of the discussion for Wednesday.”

However, the PIAA probably isn’t ready to answer many of them.

Lombardi said the PIAA won’t move ahead of Gov. Tom Wolf, who’s methodically turning counties from red to yellow to green as the covid-19 situation improves and businesses are allowed to reopen. But the PIAA is eager to hear details from the governor’s office and the Pa. Department of Health about what a county turning green would mean for sports.

“Yellow meant no gyms open and no sports,” Lombardi said. “We wanted to see what the next phase has.”

He was optimistic that information might come out before Wednesday.

Wolf announced 12 more counties, including York, will transition Friday from red to yellow. That leaves 18 red counties statewide, mostly on the far eastern edge.

The state has not released a timeline for any turning green.

The PIAA hasn’t had direct conversations with the governor’s office, Lombardi said, but he isn’t convinced that turning green would allow high school teams to immediately resume offseason workouts.

“Maybe a little later, in June or early July,” Lombardi said. “But that’s nothing more than a guess on my part.”

Regardless, Lombardi said he expects to see high school sports, including football, played in the fall, especially now, as more states relax restrictions.

“Absolutely, I’m optimistic,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that school and our (athletics) program is going to start on time. Especially in the last 10 days, because you’ve seen some of the changes. Our neighbor New Jersey is opening up beaches. That’s huge.”

In April, when spring sports season was canceled, the PIAA said it was “hopeful” summer activities would resume July 1. However, that date isn’t carved in stone.

“If there’s a possibility of something earlier, we’re going to take a good look at that,” Lombardi said.

But, Lombardi stressed, that’s only after the governor’s office gives the go-ahead.

The PIAA wants to avoid any confusion like occurred this week in Ohio. The message from that state’s governor and the Ohio High School Athletic Association seemed at times disconnected. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week that low- and no-contact sports could resume May 26.

“We don’t want surprises like that,” Lombardi said. “I don’t know what’s happened here in the last couple of days, but it seemed like they weren’t singing out of the same songbook.”

For that reason, the PIAA will await Wolf’s direction.

“Nobody wants any type of conflict or disinformation or misinterpretation,” Lombardi said. “It’s too important to everybody.”