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PIAA clarifying fall postseason plans

The PIAA clarified several items regarding the upcoming scholastic fall sports state playoffs and began discussing some of the changes that could be made to help winter sports be played successfully during the COVID-19 pandemic when it met Wednesday.

PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi said there was some confusion on the total number of games allowed by fall sports teams.

District 5 representative and Northern Bedford athletic director Jeff Batzel argued postseason games should not count toward the total number of games allowed, which for high school football is 10.

The PIAA held a vote to confirm that teams that are eliminated from the playoffs may only return to the regular season and play games until they reach 10 total games, including however many playoff games they played. Batzel and PIAA treasurer Paul Leonard were the only ones who voted against the confirmation.

“It’s a strange season that the playoffs have impeded the regular season,” Batzel said. “Normally, you play your 10 games and then you are in the playoffs. Schools in our area of the state were able to start on Sept. 11 and had a 10-game schedule in place. But with the playoffs starting this last weekend, several schools entered the playoffs.

“I guess I misinterpreted, but I understood it to mean you could still play 10 regular season games like you could in any other season. What’s happening in my area of the state is we have a lot of teams in the playoffs who will play one or two games and get eliminated. They would have liked to come back in late November and play one or two of the October games they missed that might be a homecoming game or a rivalry game.”

Batzel said if a team goes on a long postseason run, it could miss a traditionally huge regular season game that was skipped over previously.

“Perfect example in my area of the state is the Bellwood-Tyrone game, a huge rivalry,” Batzel said. “They are both in the playoffs, and they want to come back and play later in the season. I’m not sure why that’s a problem when we play 10 regular season games any other year and then tack on playoffs. It’s only in reverse now where we are playing the playoffs in the middle of the regular season and then coming back and wanting to maybe play another regular season game that both teams agree on.”

In other state playoff decisions, it was determined that if two teams are playing each other in the PIAA playoffs and are from the same side of the state, the team on the top of the bracket would have the opportunity to host the game at its own school.

“If you are at the top of the pairing, the school can play at their home school,” Lombardi said. “We always said they could play in their home district but not in their home school. Now, because we’re so site-lean, they can play at their home school site all the way up through the semifinals.”

For example, next week the winner of this week’s Tyrone-Central District 6 Class 3A championship game will play the winner of the District 5-9 title game between Bedford and Clearfield. Whoever wins that next game will go into the PIAA bracket as the top team against the District 10 champion and would have the right to host at their school, if the site is approved by the district.

If Altoona defeats Williamsport this week, it would be the top team in the next round of the PIAA 6A bracket, but it would play the District 2 champion on the other side of the state so the game would be played at a neutral site picked by the PIAA.

The PIAA also released a preliminary number on the fans that might be allowed if one of the area teams makes it to HersheyPark Stadium for a state final.

“We don’t have a final number today, but we did meet with them last week,” Lombardi said. “The number that we discussed was 1,100 per side. That was a number they provided based on their calculations. We’re not in the final stages of that yet, so that number may change.”

SUBHED: Mount Union clarification

The PIAA reminded schools of a rule put in place in the event of a strike that is now being used when schools close due to COVID-19 that states if a school is closed, a scholastic team must have at least three practices before it plays another game.

Mount Union coach Rob Turner expressed frustration that his Trojans had to opt out of the District 6 Class 2A playoffs due to this rule despite the fact Mount Union would have been eligible to come out of quarantine the day of its playoff game.

Turner said he “didn’t know what constitutes a practice in their eyes, because you could do Zoom meetings for game planning, and kids can train on their own,” in an interview with the Mirror on Oct. 18.

Lombardi answered that question on Wednesday.

“Practice is practice. Physical contact on the court, on the competition surface,” Lombardi said. “It’s not virtual. It’s not a meeting. It’s practice. In our glossary in the bi-laws, we have a definition of practice. Practice is an athletic event involving one PIAA school in which no other member school is present, so it’s an athletic event. It can’t be a meeting. It can’t be virtual.”

SUBHED: Other tidbits

n Lombardi said he is still “cautiously optimistic” about starting the winter sports season on time.

n The PIAA voted to keep jump balls for this basketball season, but officials no longer have to sign a scorebook.

n The high school wrestling steering committee mentioned the possibility of less individual and team qualifiers for the state tournament.

n The PIAA is looking into possibly charging schools to participate in the state playoffs. Currently, the only districts that charge teams to play in district playoffs are District 6 ($100 per team) and District 9 ($75 per team).

n In the Class 5A high school football playoffs, the PIAA may flip the bracket so that the winner of the Hollidaysburg or Central Mountain against District 10’s Cathedral Prep next week would play the WPIAL champion instead of the District 1 champion in the semifinals. That final decision is expected today.

n Southern Huntingdon and Forbes Road were approved to co-op a high school wrestling team.

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