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While Pennsylvania high school winter sports are on pause, what are other states doing?

MIKE WHITE
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Ohio, with the blessing of Gov. Mike DeWine, shown above, has been playing winter sports as scheduled.

Pennsylvania has plenty of company when it comes to suspending winter high school sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winter sports, however, are still being played in a number of states, including one that borders Pennsylvania.

Ohio, with the blessing of Gov. Mike DeWine, has been playing winter sports as scheduled. Boys' and girls' basketball teams already are a month into their seasons, although some schools have had to pause for a period of time because of COVID-19 cases. Also, DeWine suggested only parents of players attend games until at least Jan. 1.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations and Maxpreps.com, Ohio is one of 22 states already playing basketball. Some of the others are Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Alabama, Nebraska and South Dakota.

The PIAA, the governing body of Pennsylvania high school athletics, had decided to start winter sports as scheduled, with games and competitions beginning Dec. 11. But on Dec. 10, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the shutdown of all high school and youth sports from Dec. 12 to Jan. 4. Some basketball teams around Pennsylvania played one game before the shutdown went into effect. Wolf has been criticized for the shutdown, while others believe the shutdown is warranted because of the surge of COVID-19 cases.

Wolf did announce on Wednesday that the restrictions will be lifted, as scheduled, on Jan. 4.

Some other state associations, like the PIAA, have made the decision to suspend winter sports for a while. But other governors, like Wolf, have mandated a shutdown. According to MaxPreps, Pennsylvania is one of seven states that will begin basketball in the first five days of January. The others are Montana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Arizona.

Five other states (Maine, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Delaware and Nevada) will start basketball between Jan. 11-15. A few other states will start later in January, including New Jersey, which will start Jan. 26.

On the other hand, more than 10 states did not have fall sports and moved their football seasons to early 2021. They are now trying to somehow squeeze winter, fall and spring sports into the rest of the school year. In Texas, football got a late start and the large classification state championships are scheduled for Jan. 14-16.

The Oregon example: But how about what Oregon has done with high school sports after having no sports in the fall? Oregon has moved basketball, swimming and wrestling from the winter until May and June. Practices for football, volleyball, soccer and cross country will start Feb. 8 and the season will conclude April 11. Practices for all other spring sports start Feb. 22, with the season done May 23.

But Oregon basketball, swimming and wrestling will start practice May 10 and conclude the season June 27.

The PIAA delayed the start of football season and other fall sports a few weeks back in August and September. But the PIAA was still able to stage state championships in all fall sports.

Bob Lombardi

Lombardi's take: PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said, "The biggest lesson we learned in the fall, that we saw not only with other high school associations but also some college conferences, by at least starting and trying to get as much as you can in early while being prepared for some hiccups, you can maximize a schedule as best you can and at least get something done for the student athletes. Because it's important for their health and mental health.

"High school is different than college eligibility because once your four years are done in high school, you're done. You can't get any back. If we can only get 90% of the state to start, so be it. If it's 70%, fine. But these student-athletes need to have our best efforts because sports and other activities are important to them.

"Let's let them be leaders and they can maybe say, 'Look, let's not mess up here. Let's take care of each other and do what we need to do, so we can at least have an interscholastic season.'"