Start dates for WPIAL fall sports likely changing after board adopts ‘hybrid’ option

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Thursday, July 30, 2020 | 5:14 PM


The start dates for WPIAL fall sports likely are changing.

The board voted unanimously Thursday to trade the traditional start dates for a new “hybrid” option offered by the PIAA, meaning the WPIAL can establish later dates for each sport. The board hoped to give schools added flexibility as they transition back to classes under covid-19 conditions, WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said.

“We had concern or some sympathy for those trying to start school,” Scheuneman said. “We’re trying to allow schools the opportunity to get kids in their building or acclimated online or just get a practice schedule going during that opening of school. We wanted to have a hybrid date so we could allow schools the flexibility to do so.”

The WPIAL will release its plan to school administrators by noon Friday before announcing the details publicly. The information will include an updated format for the WPIAL football playoffs, which likely won’t include Heinz Field this season.

Heat acclimatization for football is scheduled to begin Aug. 10, with all other sports starting practice a week later, but that, too, is now in question.

Asked whether she was optimistic fall sports would be played in the coming weeks, Scheuneman said: “I think we have the ability to offer some, hopefully all.”

The WPIAL sponsors cross country, golf, field hockey, football, soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball.

The PIAA provided three start-date options to schools Wednesday. The first included traditional start dates, the second had “alternate” start dates in mid-September and the third was the “hybrid” option the WPIAL chose.

Under the traditional start dates, golf would open competition Aug. 20, tennis Aug. 24, football Aug. 28, and the remaining fall sports Sept. 4. With the hybrid option, the WPIAL can start one or multiple sports later.

All member schools must abide by that new start date.

“The schools … cannot start any sooner,” Scheuneman said. “They certainly have the ability to start later if they’re not capable (of starting on the newly established date). But as a league, if we decide to start later for certain sports, then they would need to follow those guidelines.”

The board met online and held a two-hour discussion during executive session. It was the board’s second meeting this week. The group also met Monday but delayed making any football-related decisions until after the PIAA board met Wednesday.

The WPIAL has been uncertain whether it could still use Heinz Field for the WPIAL championships, but that now seems unlikely.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has banned spectators at high school events, making Heinz Field unaffordable with no ticket sales. Also, the PIAA might move its state championships to November, pushing the WPIAL playoffs earlier.

Scheuneman wouldn’t say until Friday whether Heinz Field was eliminated, but added: “That decision has already been made for us.” She stressed that this season’s format is only temporary.

“This is simply a one-year model,” she said.

The PIAA released detailed return-to-competition guidelines on Wednesday including sport-specific protocols. Sports will be played this fall, the PIAA has decided, unless Wolf’s administration says otherwise.

However, there’s still a tough road ahead. On Thursday, the superintendent at Norristown in Montgomery County announced he wanted fall sports canceled in his district.

Scheuneman said no WPIAL schools have expressed that interest to her.

“While I haven’t heard it, I wouldn’t be surprised,” she said, “if some decided to go that route.”

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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