Pittston Area and Wyoming Area now know what their Wyoming Valley Conference football schedules could look like if a season is conducted this fall.
The “if” remained unclear during a week in which Gov. Tom Wolf stuck with his recommendation that scholastic and youth sports be avoided until at least Jan. 1, 2021.
Wolf also reiterated that he is not mandating his position and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association succeeded in arranging a meeting between its staff and the governor’s staff. That meeting reportedly was taking place Friday.
The PIAA is scheduled to hold its next Board of Directors meeting Aug. 21 where it will likely decide, among other things, whether to go ahead with the revised official fall practice start date of Aug. 24 that it agreed to last week.
In the meantime, WVC athletic directors met Thursday.
Among the actions they took Thursday was to approve a new eight-week football schedule by a 13-1 vote, with only Holy Redeemer voting against. The schedule, which still needs an official approval from superintendents of WVC votes, would begin Sept. 11 and conclude Oct. 30 with the annual rivalry game which this season will send Wyoming Area to Pittston Area.
Wyoming Area was allowed one of only two games outside the conference. The Warriors will play at Southern Columbia in a Sept. 18 rematch of defending state champions. The other is Williamsport, a WVC member in football only, playing neighboring Central Mountain.
Pittston Area will be in Division 1 with Berwick, Dallas, Hazleton Area, Wilkes-Barre Area, Williamsport and Wyoming Valley West.
Wyoming Area will play in Division 2 with Crestwood, Hanover Area, Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman and Nanticoke.
There were no discussions of potential postseason games.
The other Pittston Area games would be: Sept. 12 at Holy Redeemer; Sept. 18 vs. Berwick; Sept. 25 at Wyoming Valley West; Oct. 2 vs. HAZLETON AREA; Oct. 9 vs. DALLAS; Oct. 16 at Williamsport; Oct. 23 at Wilkes-Barre Area.
The other Wyoming Area games would be: Sept. 11 vs. HANOVER AREA; Sept. 25 vs. HOLY REDEEMER; Oct. 2 at Tunkhannock; Oct. 9 at Crestwood; Oct. 16 vs. LAKE-LEHMAN; Oct. 23 at Nanticoke.
While football dominated the meeting due to the complexity of yet another schedule, all other fall sports, except cross country, were addressed in the WVC meeting, which was held via Zoom.
Play outside the conference is expected to be very limited, but a motion to play only conference opponents was voted down, 13-4.
MMI Prep athletic director Vince Vella said he is getting feedback from the school administration that boys soccer and girls volleyball could be canceled, but other sports can be played. MMI also has teams in the golf, girls tennis and cross country.
Here is a rundown of what was addressed on the other fall sports:
Field hockey: Division 1 will move the three games scheduled for Sept. 9 to the end of the season, although no date was specified. It will then begin conference play on Sept. 14. Division 2 will start as scheduled on Sept. 11.
Also, games will consist of four quarters rather than two halves and there will be no timeouts. That rule change, which is going into effect nationally, had previously been decided.
Girls volleyball: The later start means 17 matches will have to be rescheduled and conference play will start Sept. 11. Efforts are under way to reschedule those matches.
Soccer: Both boys and girls were listed to start on Sept. 14 on the original schedule, so no adjustments will be necessary.
Girls tennis: Matches can begin Aug. 31 per the revised PIAA starting date. The five matches scheduled for Aug. 24 will be played Sept. 25. The six matches on Aug. 26 will move to Sept. 28. The six matches on Aug. 28 will be bumped to Sept. 30.
All other matches will remain as scheduled.
Golf: The sport can start Aug. 27 based on the PIAA’s new starting date. The seven matches on Aug. 26 will be shifted to Sept. 21. Three matches on Aug. 20 still need to be rescheduled. The rest of the matches remain where they were on the original schedule.
Efforts are being made to reschedule the Tryba Tournament, played annually at Fox Hill Country Club during the first full week of the season.
Also Thursday, Gov. Wolf acknowledged during his daily press conference that he has received a letter from the PIAA regarding fall sports, but said he had not read it yet.
PIAA executive director Dr. Robert Lombardi sent a letter to Wolf Tuesday regarding the protocols the PIAA has taken to make sure fall sports are as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several reports say the PIAA is expected to meet with Wolf on Friday.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to get our kids back to learning,” said Wolf, who emphasized that his opinion was a recommendation, not a mandate, regarding the suspension of fall sports. “I don’t see how whatever age, population back and forth across county borders is going to help in the effort to mitigate this disease and get us back to learning.”
So far, Wolf and the PIAA both continue to leave the final decision up to local school districts and leagues.
“School districts are going to do what they want,” he said.
When it voted to push back first practices to Aug. 24, the PIAA’s motion said it was to do so in hopes of opening a dialogue with Wolf. Each PIAA member school created safety plans which had to be approved by either the school board or administration to be utilized during voluntary workouts prior to the official start of fall sports.
Lombardi’s Tuesday letter to Wolf mentioned that community and recreational programs have hosted countless activities in all different age groups in sports such as baseball, basketball, field hockey, soccer and volleyball. He added that, to the PIAA’s knowledge, there have been no reported problems with coronavirus breakouts. It also showed parents and families are willing to allow their children to play sports.
The PIAA elected to continue on with fall sports after consulting with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which consists of nearly a dozen doctors along with athletic trainers, health professionals and athletic administrators.
The Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and PIAA sports specific steering committees developed guidelines and practices that Lombardi said in his letter to Wolf “go even beyond those that your office has developed.”
About a half-dozen schools in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases have cancelled fall sports. The Philadelphia Public League, which is in the hardest hit area in the state, has cancelled all fall sports.