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More changes, uncertainty for high school sports

Wyoming Valley Conference officials met twice this week to determine the near future of sports for Pittston Area, Wyoming Area and their local rivals.

While those meetings were being conducted, however, major developments in high school sports were also taking place to the north and south.

By the time the smoke cleared from a hurriedly scheduled Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors meeting, more was unclear about whether high school sports will be conducted again in 2021 and, if they are, what they will look like.

Here is what is known and what is unknown about the fall high school sports seasons, as of late Friday:

KNOWN: Gov. Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education jointly recommended that school and youth sports should be postponed until “at least January 1, 2021.”

The administration provided that interpretation Thursday as “strong recommendation and not an order or mandate.”

The statement came out after Gov. Wolf ended a press conference earlier in the day by first making that point about no more school sports this calendar year.

In response to a question about whether the state would be relaxing restrictions and allowing spectators at fall high school sporting events, Wolf addressed the sports issue as a whole.

“The guidance is that we ought to avoid any congregate settings,” Wolf said. “ … Anything that brings people together is going to help that virus get us. We ought to do everything we can to defeat that virus. Any time we get together for any reason, that’s a problem because it makes it easier for that virus to spread.

“So, the guidance from us, the recommendation is that we don’t do sports until January 1.”

UNKNOWN: Can the PIAA get state officials to soften their stance enough so that sports can go on without being in direct defiance of the governor or other state authorities?

If ordered to halt sports, the PIAA will.

The PIAA Board of Directors in its Friday meeting voted 29-2 in favor of: “A motion to defer the start of all fall sports for two weeks to August 24, during which staff is requested to continue to seek a dialogue with the administration, the legislature and all stakeholders to obtain clarification of the possibility of safely conducting athletic activity in conjunction with the start of the school year.”

KNOWN: PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said Friday that it will be OK for teams to continue voluntary offseason workouts, where allowed by their school districts.

At this point, seasons will no longer be able to start on time. The move to Aug. 24 practice starts, pushes the entire calendar back for each sport. It delays football openers by at least two weeks and the first legal competition in all other sports by at least one week.

UNKNOWN: It is still not certain that athletes in fall sports will actually be able to play after conducting those workouts or if official practice will even start Aug. 24. It remains possible that additional changes could happen between now and then.

KNOWN: If fall sports happen, they will be conducted in varying ways in different parts of the state.

Even within District 2, which covers the northeastern part of the state, leagues see it differently.

Prior to Gov. Wolf’s statement and the PIAA reaction, the WVC had voted earlier in the week to continue with sports on schedule while the Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association had voted to delay its starts in all but golf and girls tennis as part of a three-tiered approach to the season, based on the risk involved in each sport.

UNKNOWN: If sports are allowed and the Lackawanna League teams proceed at a different pace, will they all be taking part?

Abington Heights has suspended all fall sports and superintendent Michael Mahon has already stated in writing that contact sports “are unlikely to take place.”

After Wednesday’s LIAA decision to take a three-tiered approach, Carbondale followed Abington Heights and suspended its fall sports. With lessons being conducted virtually through Oct. 6, it is also seen as unlikely that Carbondale will reverse that decision in time for the season.

Other schools in the league, including Valley View, which has halted voluntary offseason workouts, were considering the same action.

KNOWN: Existing schedules will have to be altered.

Conference play and games close to home will be the emphasis. The WVC agreed Thursday to avoid games against outside opponents in all but a few established circumstances. Even non-league games, if any are scheduled, will be sought against teams within the WVC.

For this season, the cooperative scheduling between the WVC and the Lackawanna Football Conference is gone. At best, the WVC now has eight weeks for football while the LFC has five, unless postseason plans are torn up.

The WVC agreed Thursday to solve its scheduling issues internally.

UNKNOWN: The WVC set up two schedule formats for football, one involving 10 games and the other involving seven games. They were going to be reviewed this week before a final choice was made.

The PIAA’s decision to delay two weeks and take two weeks out of the schedule could mean an easy choice of the seven-game option or it might mean starting over and drawing up an eight-game schedule.

In the seven-game plan, Pittston Area’s football opponents would be: Berwick, Wyoming Valley West, Hazleton Area, Dallas, Wilkes-Barre Area, Williamsport and Wyoming Area. Wyoming Area’s opponents would be: Hanover Area, Holy Redeemer, Tunkhannock, Crestwood, Nanticoke, Lake-Lehman and Pittston Area.

With a higher emphasis on conference play, Pittston Area would compete in Division 1 and Wyoming Area in Division 2 of the WVC.

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We need help to find a way to prevent COVID-19

COVID-19 studies are enrolling now.

Those who qualify:*

  • may receive the investigational vaccine or placebo at no cost
  • may receive compensation for time and travel
  • may receive free testing for COVID-19