PIAA board says some teams may resume workouts next month, if governor approves

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 | 12:01 AM

The PIAA board of directors unanimously supports a county-by-county approach to restarting high school sports, once the governor gives his approval.

If that approval comes soon, some schools might resume workouts before July 1.

The board discussed Wednesday whether the PIAA should set one restart date for the entire state or whether it could allow schools from different regions with varying covid-19 outlooks to restart at different times. Board members saw no reason to keep athletes idle once Gov. Tom Wolf says sports can resume.

“I understand the concern of state championships down the road and what’s fair and what’s equitable,” said District 11 chairman Bob Hartman, whose district includes seven Eastern Pa. counties — six that remain red. “But you know what, that’s (a discussion for) October or November. That’s five months from now. If we can let kids go, let’s let them go and be kids.”

PIAA president James Zack said he agreed “wholeheartedly.”

That’s likely good news for Western Pennsylvania, where all counties will be in the yellow phase of Wolf’s color-coded reopening by Friday. Beaver is among 12 counties scheduled to turn yellow this week. The majority of the 18 counties that remain red are along the far eastern edge of the state.

“If (District 10 chairman) Pete Iacino’s kids in Erie can start working out together two weeks from now … I don’t think we should stop those kids,” Hartman said, “because I have kids at home that would love to be able to get out. Why should we deny any kid or group of kids, if they’re permitted, to do what they can do?”

Wolf has shared no timeline for turning any counties green.

Just because a county turns green, however, doesn’t mean Wolf will allow an immediate return to offseason workouts, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said.

PIAA teams have been banned from working out together since Wolf closed school building March 13, a week before spring sports seasons were scheduled to start. That shutdown was extended April 9, when Wolf ordered building to remain closed for the rest of the school year.

The shutdown forced the PIAA to cancel its basketball tournaments, swimming championships and all spring sports.

District 12 chairman Michael Hawkins, who represents Philadelphia Catholic League and public school members, supported a county-by-county restart with the caveat that the PIAA must discuss championship contingency plans later this summer.

In April, the PIAA established July 1 — the official first day of the next school year — as the earliest high school teams could resume workouts, but Lombardi said that could be moved up in some counties if the governor turns them green. The board voted unanimously Wednesday and granted Lombardi authority to adjust that July 1 date, once the governor grants permission.

“I think the board gets a bad rap that they don’t care,” Lombardi said. “You saw and heard how committed they are to get kids to do what they like to do: play athletics. That’s why this whole scenario of the last eight weeks has been so gut-wrenching for all of us.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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