PSAC cancels winter sports, PIAA moving forward

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

With COVID-19 cases rising the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s (PSAC) Board of Directors announced Wednesday that it has canceled the impending winter sports seasons. In the meantime, The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) will begin practice for the upcoming seasons on Friday following a recommendation from its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) to proceed “with an abundance of caution,” according to the meeting minutes.

PSAC teams include Clarion, IUP, Slippery Rock, Pitt-Johnstown, Edinboro, Mercyhurst, Gannon, Lock Haven, Mansfield, California, Bloomsburg, Shippensburg, East Stroudsburg, Millersville, Kutztown, West Chester, Seton Hill, and Shepherd.

“With careful consideration to health concerns and realistic abilities to conduct sport seasons amid this pandemic, our conference and our membership is forced to make some very difficult decisions,” said PSAC Commissioner Steve Murray in a release. “With the time we have to continue weighing our options, we are fully committed to playing a spring sports season. We will remain supportive of any other decisions to play sports and host championship events should our membership view it as a safe and reasonable opportunity.”

Winter sports affected include basketball, wrestling, indoor track and field, and swimming.

On July 15 the PSAC decided to suspend the fall sports seasons of football, soccer, volleyball, cross country, and field hockey. Last week the board canceled the seasons which some had hoped to play in the spring. However they did leave the door open for schools to play saying in its statement – “However, should six or more institutions commit to participating in any of those sports, the conference will reinstate a championship season.”

The PSAC plans to go ahead with the spring sports of baseball, softball, track and field, tennis, golf, and women’s lacrosse.

At Wednesday’s PIAA meeting the Board of Directors said the winter sports teams which locally include basketball, wrestling, and gymnastics, swimming, and competitive cheer which could be holding virtual competitions, can move forward with pre-season practices on Friday, Nov. 20. Fifteen days of practice are mandatory before the opening of seasons on December 11.

The following statement was included in the minutes of Wednesday’s PIAA meeting.

“The SMAC emphasizes that since the impact of COVID-19 varies from county to county and district to district, decisions to start winter sports practices and/or competitions at schools must be balanced with respect to the public health interests in each community.

“As conditions for participation in winter sports allow, the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee affirms its belief that STRICT ADHERENCE by schools and teams to school-adopted health and safety plans, CDC Guidance and PA DOH Guidelines provides a reasonably safe environment for participation in interscholastic athletics.”

At a question and answer session following the meeting The Board’s Executive Director Bob Lombardi re-iterated the SMAC’s position of moving forward with “caution”. He feels that if schools abide by the health and safety guidelines set forth by the Department of Health and CDC a “reasonably safe environment for participation” will be provided.