Leader of PIAA's largest district rips Gov. Wolf for 'inconsistent and unfair' approach

Beaver County Times (TNS)
Amy Scheuneman

GREEN TREE — Almost defiantly, the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League disagrees with Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf's recommendation that high school sports be postponed until Jan. 1.

On Monday morning, WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman presided at an unprecedented news conference in a parking lot outside of league headquarters. The WPIAL is also known as District 7.

There weren't any major announcements at the news conference regarding the fate of scholastic sports in regards to the coronavirus outbreak. But the WPIAL — the largest of the PIAA's 12 districts — obviously is critical of Wolf's recent recommendation.

"The WPIAL's response to the Governor's comments and ensuing documents is one of frustration due to uncalculated, inconsistent and unfair approach to this guidance," Scheuneman said. "It is uncalculated because the data has not shown a significant increase in adolescent athletes as recently reported by the Allegheny County Health Department in regards to the cases received just this past July. Very few indicated sports as a reason for contracting that virus.

"But more importantly, what is not being calculated into this decision are the negative and adverse health risks involved with not allowing sports to continue under the established precautions and protocols. Health risks such as isolation, depression, anxiety, obesity and social losses from the lack of teamwork.

"The incentive to go to school and do well in class, providing at outlet to relieve stress, to feel included, providing hope, working toward goals and overcoming adversity. The list can go on and on. These need to be taken in consideration because they are opportunities that these students will not be able to get back, unlike collegiate athletes. The lack of participation may actually alter their future endeavors."

Scheuneman added that, "My plea to Governor Wolf is to re-evaluate and see the importance of high school athletics as a whole and in the development of student athlete."

Scheuneman also said that the WPIAL's response to Gov. Wolf's recommendation is the league's way of supporting athletes who compete in WPIAL sports.

"We (want) to let them know we are fighting for them," she said. "We've heard from a lot of individuals who are begging and pleading. We want to let them know we are trying. We are going to work as hard as we can in the next two weeks with the governor's office, in accordance with the PIAA, to hopefully allow something to happen this fall."

Based on advice from its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the PIAA believes it can safely have fall sports.

After Gov. Wolf's recommendation to postpone high school sports until Jan. 1, the PIAA decided to push back the start of fall sports. That way, the PIAA will have more time to talk with Wolf's administration, state legislators and medical experts before making any further decisions regarding fall sports.

The PIAA board meets again Aug. 21.

As of now, heat acclimatization for football will begin Monday, Aug. 24. Football teams then must have five practices before they can scrimmage.

Other fall sports can also begin official practices Aug. 24.

Teams are allowed to hold voluntary off-season workouts until then.

If Gov. Wolf ultimately decides to cancel all high school sports until Jan. 1, Scheuneman said the WPIAL will have no choice but to abide by that decision.

That being said, Scheuneman said that "We are committed to providing safe and meaningful seasons to all student athletes. We do not view sports simply as a game but rather as an opportunity for education and the overall development of student/athletes."