Coronavirus outbreak could leave 6-figure dent in WPIAL budget

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020 | 11:19 PM


The coronavirus outbreak already has spring sports on hold indefinitely, but the WPIAL is bracing for off-the-field impacts as well from the unfolding pandemic.

The virus could leave a six-figure hole in the WPIAL budget, cancel the annual meeting and delay the election of board members for next school year. Regardless, the WPIAL will be OK, said executive director Tim O’Malley, insisting there are greater worries in the world today.

“The challenge here is a human challenge,” said O’Malley, who’ll retire this summer after 14 years as the WPIAL’s top administrator. “The whole way we’ve become accustomed to living our lives is out the window, so high school sports is a very, very small part of it.”

Still, the WPIAL has challenges ahead.

If spring sports season is cancelled entirely, which remains a serious possibility, the WPIAL would see more than $100,000 vanish from its annual budget, O’Malley said. As a result, the WPIAL board decided Monday to delay disbursement of the playoff profits that it shares each year with schools.

The WPIAL splits postseason profits from football, soccer and basketball with schools that participate in those games. Last April, the WPIAL distributed more than $122,000 to member schools.

This year, that money could be needed to cover expenses, WPIAL associate executive director Amy Scheuneman said.

“If we don’t have spring sports, they may be held to offset budget,” she said.

However, the WPIAL did see strong ticket sales for winter playoffs, which helped the league’s bottom line. Gate receipts for basketball and wrestling were up from last season.

Beyond financial concerns, the virus could also cause a few logistical issues.

Ballots to elect new board members were sent last week to high school principals with a March 27 deadline to respond. With all schools closed by Gov. Tom Wolf until at least March 30, there’s concern the deadline might need to be delayed.

The WPIAL had received around 20 responses by Wednesday, O’Malley said.

“We’ll take a look at how many come in the next week and a half,” he said. “If it’s close to what it typically is, then we’ll go through with the audit.”

There are 10 seats on the board that come up for re-election each summer.

The election results are traditionally announced at the WPIAL annual meeting, which draws administrators from across Western Pennsylvania, but this year’s gathering April 15 seems likely to be cancelled.

The next large gatherings on the WPIAL calendar are the scholar-athlete luncheon May 18 and the WPIAL Hall of Fame induction banquet May 29.

However, to prevent the virus’ spread, health officials have urged people to avoid large groups.

“It’s a problem,” O’Malley said. “Definitely the biggest problem (the WPIAL has faced) in my lifetime and certainly in my tenure.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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