WPIAL delays start dates for fall sports

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Friday, July 31, 2020 | 12:02 PM


The WPIAL delayed the start date for most fall sports, a decision executive director Amy Scheuneman compared to a two-hour delay on a winter morning.

It’s better than a cancellation.

The WPIAL notified school administrators Friday that football season won’t start until Sept. 10, the regular season will be reduced to seven games and the playoffs might look very different. Season openers for cross country, soccer, field hockey and girls volleyball were delayed until Sept. 14.

Only golf and girls tennis can start sooner, on Aug. 24.

The WPIAL had concern for schools trying to balance a sports season with starting classes in-person or online under covid-19 conditions.

“That was the biggest thing we were hearing from superintendents and principals,” Scheuneman said. “They needed some time to get things going before they added sports to the mix.”

The original schedule had Week Zero football games Aug. 28. Now, they’re delayed until after Labor Day.

In the meantime, teams can practice. Heat acclimatization for football begins Aug. 10, as originally scheduled. Likewise, all fall sports are allowed to start practice Aug. 17.

“Everything with practice is the same,” Scheuneman said. “But this gives them more flexibility. If they want to go every other day (with different groups of athletes) and spread people out, they have the time to do that.”

The WPIAL board met online Thursday for two hours in executive session before agreeing on a direction for the league. It was the board’s second meeting in four days.

The delayed start allows more workout time for teams that missed spring sessions when school buildings were closed, Scheuneman said, and lets individual districts better implement their health and safety plans.

With the season delayed, the WPIAL reduced the maximum number of regular-season contests for each sport.

That move was meant to help schools financially, limit the possible spread of the coronavirus and provide more time for cleaning facilities. Soccer teams can play 16 regular-season games. Tennis, golf, volleyball and field hockey are limited to 14. Cross country teams can have 12 meets.

The WPIAL wanted to provide school districts with a simpler path for embracing sports this fall.

“Obviously, some are more prepared and ready than others,” Scheuneman said. “This will allow those schools time to get everything in line before starting sports.”

Football teams will scrimmage Sept. 3-5, which was Week 1 on the old schedule. The first play date for regular-season games is a Thursday, Sept. 10. Most teams may start that Friday instead, but the WPIAL was anticipating some Thursday games to alleviate a shortage of officials.

Under the traditional start dates, golf would have opened competition Aug. 20, tennis Aug. 24, football Aug. 28 and the remaining fall sports Sept. 4. Instead, the PIAA offered districts a “hybrid” option this week, letting the WPIAL choose later start dates.

To delay football season, the board decided to eliminate matchups from Week Zero, 1 and 2. There were no conference games scheduled in those weeks, making them easier to cut.

The WPIAL posted updated football schedules Friday.

The football regular season will end a week earlier than originally scheduled, in case the PIAA moves the state championships to Thanksgiving weekend, as expected.

To do that, the WPIAL shifted what were Week 9 games (Oct. 30) to the opening week of the new schedule (Sept. 10-11). Teams then play opponents from weeks 3-8 as scheduled.

The WPIAL also revealed two football playoff formats, one if there are state playoffs and another if they are canceled by the PIAA. Neither is expected to include Heinz Field.

• If there are state playoffs: The WPIAL will have a four-team bracket in Class 6A, with the finals Nov. 6 or 7. Class 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and A will have eight-team brackets with finals Nov. 13 or 14.

• If there are no state playoffs: The WPIAL will have only a two-round tournament and four qualifiers from each classification. The finals would be Nov. 6.

FALL SCHEDULE

Practices for all sports start Aug. 17

Girls tennis

First scrimmage: Aug. 22

First contest: Aug. 24

Max contests: 14

Golf

First scrimmage: Aug. 20

First contest: Aug. 24

Max contests: 14

Soccer

First scrimmage: Aug. 29

First contest: Sept. 14

Max contests: 16

Field hockey

First scrimmage: Aug. 29

First contest: Sept. 14

Max contests: 14

Football

Heat acclimatization: Aug. 10

First scrimmage: Sept. 3

First contest: Sept. 10

Max contests: 7

Cross county

First scrimmage: Aug. 29

First meet: Sept. 14

Max meets: 12

Girls volleyball

First scrimmage: Aug. 29

First contest: Sept. 14

Max contests: 14

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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