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In a break with tradition, PIAA to allow teams to play at home in state playoffs

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

Pennsylvania high school teams are now allowed to host state playoff games, the PIAA board decided Wednesday, a move prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Finding neutral sites willing to host will be more complicated under COVID-19 conditions, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said, but this decision also reduces travel and saves the PIAA money, since it won't need to pay a rental fee.

"A neutral site says: 'Wait a minute. We're letting two strange schools come on our campus and we have no control over them?'" Lombardi said. "'We don't want to do that.'"

So, starting this fall, the team listed higher on the PIAA bracket is the home team and can play at home, assuming that school has the adequate facilities to host. In years past, state playoff games were played at neutral sites.

Now, those home teams can play their state playoff game on their own field or court, pending approval from its local PIAA district.

If a team can't host, the the district would be responsible for finding an alternate site.

The rule change applies only for schools on the same side of the state. If a matchup involves one team from the east against another from the west, the PIAA will find a neutral site in the middle, Lombardi said.

The new policy applies to all rounds except the championships.

The PIAA board met online Wednesday.

Winter sports items: Among its other actions, the board approved COVID-19 Return to Competitions guidelines for winter sports.

Lombardi said he remains "cautiously optimistic" that winter sports will start next month as scheduled.

Official practice is set to begin Nov. 20 in basketball, wrestling and swimming for boys and girls with competition to follow on Dec. 11

The PIAA board passed several items for each winter sport based on the discussions by each sports' committee.

In basketball, each game and overtime will start with the normal jump ball at midcourt despite the National Federation of High Schools recommending to get rid of it this year for health reasons. The PIAA also approved a motion that officials will verbally confirm rosters and starters for each team and not sign the book.

In swimming, the board passed several health and safety recommendations, including a reduced number of swimmers and workers in all areas and six feet social distancing. The PIAA also passed a recommendation for a reduced number of qualifiers for the state meet.

The PIAA board also passed a recommendation for fewer qualifiers in wrestling. The wrestling committee also submitted a request to increase the limitation on multiple school duals or individual pool events from two to four, but Mark Byers, the PIAA's wrestling committee chairman, asked to return to the committee for further discussion on the issue.