Story courtesy of the Bethlehem Press newspaper
By Peter Car
The PIAA has given the green light for fall sports to move ahead on schedule this fall, but it appears the East Penn Conference will be taking a cautious approach.
A meeting between principals and athletic directors of the 18-member conference met on Thursday and delayed a vote on how the fall sports schedule will look exactly, but acknowledged that the season would be pushed back by a month for contact sports - football, field hockey and soccer - with practices starting on Sept. 14.
That means competitions won’t begin until the last week of September and the first football games would be held October 2.
Non-contact sports such as cross country, golf and tennis may be able to start on time, based on Tuesday’s vote.
East Penn Conference vice president and Liberty athletic director Fred Harris confirmed the move on Thursday, and to have a final plan and vote to be resolved next Tuesday.
“There was a vote on a delayed tier start for fall sports based on contact and non-contact sports,” said Harris, as the rumored support to push back the season was by a 13-5 margin. “Our goal is to compete in county as much as possible to help mitigate risk.”
Harris didn’t go into specifics in regards to the plans the EPC has on the table, but it appears that the league will want to limit competition to schools by county, meaning Lehigh, Northampton and Monroe counties would stay within their territories to compete against each other.
The PIAA held a Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday and gave leeway to localized decisions across the state.
“In addressing the COVID-19 crisis and how it has affected the 67 counties differently, PIAA understands the flexibility needed by school districts to make localized measured decisions, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” the PIAA said in a news release.
Fall practices were set to begin on Aug. 10 for football’s heat acclimatization period, while other fall sports would begin on Aug. 17.
The first date for football across the state was slated for Aug. 28 with all sports starting by Sept. 4. The PIAA approved two alternate plans at Wednesday’s meeting to push golf, girls tennis, cross country, girls volleyball, field hockey and soccer to Sept. 14 and football to Sept. 18. Another plan pushed sports back to the first week of October as an official start of competitions.
Girls volleyball still has question marks, due to playing indoors and the state’s restrictions of 25 people in a venue.
“Our biggest concern is to get the schools open,” said Harris. “I think the league as a whole is set on what we want to do moving forward and there’s consensus. We’ll release those specifics next week after Tuesday’s vote.”