“All this could be changed in a moment.”
The words from District 10 Chairman Peter Iacino on Thursday morning were an accurate prediction of what was to come for players, coaches, athletic administrators and fans of high school sports in Pennsylvania. The District 10 Committee met Thursday morning via Zoom prior to Governor Tom Wolf’s announcement of the postponement of high school athletics for three weeks.
At the time of the meeting, Iacino announced that 16 schools were ready to go tonight on the first date of competition, while six programs were not scheduled to be game-ready until January and the rest — including Maplewood and Titusville — had “scattered” start dates throughout the month of December.
Here are some of the highlights from the meeting:
District 10 will not penalize teams for games postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19 issues during the winter sports season. Any region game that is not played as scheduled and is not able to be made up by the district’s playoff deadline will be considered a “non-game.”
Additionally, games that are not played due to a disagreement on the rules of mask-wearing will also be considered as “non-games.” Host schools are permitted to decide whether or not student-athletes must wear masks while participating in games in their buildings. However, the away teams can cancel those games because of health and safety concerns about mask-wearing while playing, and those cancellations will not be held against the school.
Iacino reminded those in attendance on Thursday morning that communication is “the key.”
“The key to all of this is the communication between the schools so that everybody understands what each school is doing prior to the time of play, so that you don’t get there and find out something is different from what you can deal with and cancel the game on sight,” he said.
If teams are unable to comply in the postseason, however, they will forfeit those games and be eliminated from the playoffs.
The PIAA also adopted a three-tier return to play guidance for teams that are forced to shut down for some time mid-season due to COVID-19. Teams that are unable to practice for 8-10 consecutive days must have two practices prior to resuming play. There is an three-practice minimum for teams that are sidelined for 11-14 consecutive days. Teams that are out for more the 14 consecutive days must have four practices.
In regard to the regular season, Iacino forwarded the news that the PIAA Board of Directors voted on Wednesday to allow teams to play regular season contests through the date of the state championship games, which is March 27, 2021. In addition, teams that are eliminated from the postseason are permitted to continue its “regular season” with more games. However, teams are not allowed to exceed the normal limit of 22 games in the season, which includes playoff games.
District 10 gave no recommendation of changing the schedules or regions for teams for the winter sports season.
State and district playoffs
Iacino passed along that the PIAA Board of Directors voted on some changes Wednesday to the state playoffs. All sports will see a reduction in the amount of state qualifiers.
— In basketball and team wrestling, only the district champions will advance to the state tournament. The First Round of the state basketball playoffs have been moved back to the week of March 16.
— Regarding swimming, the district champions and the next fastest times to get to 16 total swimmers in each event will qualify for the state meet, which is half the normal number of qualifiers. Iacino said that the championships are still planned to be held at Bucknell University but the cancellation of spring break that will keep more people on campus, the university’s limits on the amount of people in each building and the fact that fans are not permitted could force the PIAA to reconsider the location.
“A further reduction on the number of qualifiers could happen, but it’s just too early to tell,” Iacino said. “It remains unknown and is in flux.”
— District 10 Wrestling Tournament Director Steve Hoover provided an update about individual wrestling. Only eight wrestlers in each weight class will qualify for the state tournament this season and the goal is to complete the Class AA and AAA tournaments in one day apiece. The dates for the state finals have not changed as they remain March 12-13, 2021.
Furthermore, there will be an additional round between states and the regional tournaments named the “Super Regional,” one for each half of the state. Eight wrestlers will compete in the Super Regional the week before the state tournament. A week before the Super Regional will be the standard regional tournament, but it will also only have eight wrestlers per class.
Hoover also added that it is unclear whether District 10 will conduct section tournaments this season.
In July, the PIAA unanimously approved the change to 13 weight classes at the following weights: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 172, 189, 215 and 285.
— District 10 did not offer up district-specific playoff proposals or exact timelines for any of the winter sports. Although, Iacino said the district may move toward an “invitation only” postseason tournament if the region schedules aren’t able to be completed. The number of teams that may be invited was “unknown” Thursday.
— Sharon notified the district that it will not have a ninth grade basketball team this season.
— Grove City’s athletic program was placed on a one calendar year probation period effective immediately and is required to submit a corrective action plan for failing to follow the protocols following an incident this fall in which the varsity boys soccer coach and one player from the team were ejected and returned to play prior to completing the required coursework to be reinstated. Grove City forfeited those contests that the ineligible coach and player participated in prior to completing the coursework.
— The next District 10 Committee Meeting is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2021.