Football coaches association optimistic PIAA starts on time, offers scenarios if delayed

Sunday, July 26, 2020 | 11:05 PM

The Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association shared nine different scenarios with the PIAA in recent weeks, each with a different start date for the fall season.

The scenarios describe how the high school schedule could be organized if the season needed to be delayed. There were two-week increments between each plan. The most drastic included only a seven-game regular season, an early-October start date and no playoffs.

Yet, with heat acclimatization now only days away, PSFCA executive director Garry Cathell said he’s hopeful the scenarios won’t be needed.

“If anybody asks me right now, I’m very, very optimistic about a season,” he said. “It’s pretty much in the governor’s hands or the school districts’ hands.”

Heat acclimatization for football starts Aug. 10, and the PIAA said it’s sticking to that timeline unless something occurs outside of its control. Practices begin Aug. 17 with the first scrimmages Aug. 22.

Week Zero games are Aug. 28.

“There are still a couple of things that could happen,” Cathell said. “Obviously, if the governor says no, then no. You can’t start. If the Department of Ed says no, then you can’t start. If the school districts say no, you can’t start. But the PIAA is going to start if they’re allowed.”

PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the PSFCA scenarios were appreciated.

“There are some alternate opportunities there that are a little creative,” Lombardi said. “I think that’s good, but I don’t think we’re at that stage yet for some of those considerations.”

Cathell described the relationship between his organization and the PIAA as “very, very good.” So, the PSFCA leadership decided to be proactive when it put together the various start-date plans as a resource for the PIAA.

The PSFCA stressed in those proposals that football teams would need a minimum of three weeks of preseason practice, if the start date was delayed. But Cathell stressed that the PSFCA scenarios were only suggestions.

“We’re not saying these are things we want you to do,” he said. “We’re saying, Here are some models for you to look at. Some ideas to look at. If they would end up being used, that’s fantastic. … If they’re not used, that’s fine.”

Cathell was invited to attend the PIAA football steering committee meeting this past week. The committee reviewed sport-specific guidelines for fall competition, and Cathell left that meeting confident the PIAA was serious about playing football this fall.

The guidelines will be finalized Wednesday at the PIAA board meeting.

“A lot of the questions and concerns that I’m fielding, they are going to be answered,” Cathell said. “I’m sure 100 percent of things have not been thought of, but it would be hard to think of something that hasn’t been discussed and plans made for.”

While the PIAA plans to start on time, there’s no guarantee the season will be completed as scheduled. Some winter sports saw their seasons cut short last school year. Spring sports were canceled entirely.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Cathell said. “I’m just hoping we can get some games in for these kids and everybody stays safe and healthy. That’s all you can wish for. If unfortunately the season does get cut shorter than expected, at least they’ll have the opportunity to start.”

If football season is impacted, the PSFCA has plans to help seniors with college recruiting. Cathell said the organization will hold combine-type workouts.

“We plan to have video and live-streaming of the combines, so these kids can be seen by college coaches,” he said. “Those are going to happen all over the state, if there isn’t a football season.”

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

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