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PIAA: Winter sports on schedule, but Lombardi says there's 'long way to go to get there'

CHRIS HARLAN
The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Bob Lombardi

As fall sports approach the postseason, the PIAA is turning its attention to winter.

COVID-19 guidelines for basketball, wrestling and all other winter sports will be produced soon, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said, adding that the PIAA intends to start those seasons next month as scheduled.

The PIAA board met online Wednesday.

“As we stand today on Oct. 7, we anticipate starting the winter sport season on time,” Lombardi said.

The first winter practices are Nov. 20 with first competitions Dec. 11.

“We have a long way to go to get there,” Lombardi added.

The first step in the process is releasing sport-specific recommendations for preventing coronavirus spread. The PIAA released corresponding guidelines for fall sports in July that provided game-day advice on social distancing, health screenings, sanitation and other topics.

Lombardi said the approval process would start in the next week when the steering committees meet. The PIAA board reconvenes Oct. 28, but it’s not known whether the winter guidelines will be finalized by then.

“I can’t give you a timeline today because we’re in the process of scheduling those meetings,” Lombardi said.

The coaches’ association, the officials committee and the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee also must review the guidelines before they’re ready for PIAA board approval, he said.

“We may not have them done in the next three weeks, but we’re going to make our best efforts to get them around because there are a number of groups we’ve shared them with (in the past),” Lombardi said. “Last time we shared them with the governor’s office, the Department of Education and the Department of Health, even though they wanted to disavow their involvement.”

The PIAA included the departments of education and health on the cover of its Return to Competition Guidelines for fall sports, but PennLive reported in August that Wolf’s staff wanted the PIAA to issue a clarification saying they did not approve them.

Lombardi said the PIAA intends to start winter sports on time but will react to whatever circumstances arise. The PIAA took a similar approach to the fall and ultimately delayed the start of those seasons two weeks.

“We will remain flexible on what comes our way,” Lombardi said. “We all need to be able to adapt. We all need to be able to be flexible. And we all need to be patient.”

Other news: In other PIAA news:

►Fall sports teams in Pennsylvania can officially keep playing games until Thanksgiving if they want to finish a full season.

The PIAA passed a proposal that would allow fall sports teams to play full seasons even if they make the playoffs and get eliminated. If a football team plays six regular-season games and loses in the first round of the district playoffs, that team is allowed to play three more games before Thanksgiving for the maximum allowed games of 10.

The 10-game limit is normally for regular seasons with teams then playing additional playoff games, but with this temporary proposal, teams can keep playing after the playoffs. It also applies to soccer and volleyball teams that miss the playoffs or get eliminated early as long as they don't exceed the maximum number of contests allowed in one season.

►The PIAA also passed several proposals that mostly apply to eastern schools. On a second reading, the PIAA passed that schools who do not participate in fall sports this fall, can play an abridged version of the fall season in the spring for eight weeks starting March 1 with no playoffs.

On a first reading, the PIAA also passed a proposal that any fall sports team that gets shut down over COVID-19 can play in the spring if they haven't played more than 25 percent of the fall season.

►Lombardi addressed the new spectator mitigation order from Gov. Tom Wolf and said it was a “step in the right direction that will hopefully lead to bigger limits down the road.” Lombardi also said he believes it solves the issues for girls' volleyball and water polo and that schools are flexible enough that it helps football and soccer.

Tom Reisenweber of the Erie Times-News contributed to this report.