Foul language, physical contact would earn 2-game suspension under PIAA proposal

Thursday, May 21, 2020 | 6:39 PM

The use of foul and vulgar language or physical contact with a PIAA game official, coach or opponent could become a two-game suspension for high school athletes and coaches.

The PIAA board discussed a new disqualification rule at Wednesday’s online meeting meant to curb a rising tide of ejections statewide. The proposal was easily approved on a second-reading basis but isn’t official yet.

Proposals must pass three reading to take effect, which could happen this summer.

Currently, any ejection results in an automatic one-game suspension, but officials would have the authority to double that punishment for the most egregious infractions.

“The ejection reports we get, especially in soccer and now it has crept into football pretty heavily, they’re offensive,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. “The language is extremely foul. As a high school student, to direct that at an official — or opposing player or coach — they would be on a five-day suspension from school if they did it in a classroom.”

Lombardi said soccer traditionally has the highest number of ejections with more than 400 per season, but football has started to inch higher in recent years. Football ejections jumped from 205 in 2015 to 255 last fall.

PIAA assistant executive director Pat Gebhart noted that abuse is the No. 1 reason officials quit the profession, adding that it’s not just fan abuse that’s a problem.

“We’re tired of our officials and our coaches being attacked,” Lombardi said.

Along with a two-game suspension, athletes would not be permitted to return to competition until they complete the NFHS Sportsmanship program online and their school’s principal submits certification of completion to the district chairman. Coaches must complete both the NFHS Sportsmanship program and the NFHS Teaching and Modeling Behavior program before returning.

Additionally, the rule would allow district committees to schedule a hearing to administer additional discipline, if warranted.

The new rule was one of several decisions the board made Wednesday that involved officials. Among them, the board decided to give officials a $20 credit toward their 2021-22 dues since spring sports season was canceled.

Also, facing an uncertain summer, the PIAA Officials Convention scheduled for August was canceled.

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

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