PIAA might keep football championships in November, start season earlier | Trib HSSN


Wednesday, January 27, 2021 | 7:37 PM

Should the state football championship remain in November, even if that requires an earlier start date or smaller playoffs?

That’s a question the PIAA wants its strategic planning committee to consider. For now it’s just talk, but the PIAA might take action before next season if the right plan comes along, executive director Bob Lombardi said.

The PIAA board met online Wednesday.

Starting football season earlier would be one way to keep the finals in November, but that’s not the only option, Lombardi said.

“We may start where we are right now with heat (acclimatization),” he said. “We may move a week earlier. We may reduce the number of regular-season games. We may look at shortened playoffs. There are a whole lot of things to consider there, including the possible shortening of preseason practice.

“That’s really for the committee to get into the laboratory and have some discussion back and forth,” he added. “There’s a whole lot of possibility.”

The coronavirus pandemic forced the PIAA to make a great number of adjustments last fall and some of those changes might merit future use, Lombardi said. With support from its football committee, the PIAA asked the strategic planning committee to meet Feb. 10 and consider what to keep.

Moving the football finals to November was one of the PIAA’s biggest adjustments. The games were played on the weekend after Thanksgiving, a few weeks earlier than usual.

At the time, the move was made to avoid a rise in covid-19 cases predicted for late fall but also allowed the championship games to be played in warmer weather.

“We learned some lessons this past fall,” Lombardi said. “I think it was advantageous for everybody that was involved.”

In fact, the PIAA football committee met Jan. 13 and discussed moving the finals even earlier — to the week before Thanksgiving. Finalists then could avoid traveling on the holiday, as some did this past season.

Lombardi said the strategic planning committee may have recommendations ready for the PIAA board’s Feb. 17 meeting, but couldn’t offer a timeframe for a final decision. As long as the decisions are made before the end of the school year, that likely would be early enough to change the 2021 schedule, he said.

“As we’ve learned, there was always this position taken that we need time to do this and need time to do that,” Lombardi said. “That all went out the window last March 13.”

The WPIAL already announced an updated playoff format for the 2021 football postseason and this week released updated schedules for next season. Those might change depending on the PIAA decision.

The PIAA strategic planning committee also will discuss the use of electronic ticketing and whether to continue awarding home games to the top team on the bracket.

New site for PIAA swimming

The PIAA board voted to move this winter’s state swimming and diving championships to Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

Covid-19 limits on gathering sizes led the PIAA to look for a site other than Bucknell University, PIAA associate executive director Melissa Mertz said. Diving finals will be March 13 with swimming March 19-20.

No spectators are allowed.

The move was made official, as long as Bucknell releases the PIAA from its contract.

Mertz said Bucknell’s venue could hold only 110 people under current gathering limits. Counting athletes alone, the PIAA expects to have around 125, not including coaches or officials, Mertz said. Also, Bucknell won’t be on spring break at that time, she said, limiting the university facilities available for PIAA use.

Cumberland Valley has experience hosting the PIAA District 3 meet.

“They’re very familiar with running swimming and diving championships,” Mertz said. “A couple of things that made it very attractive to us was we have use of so many facilities within their building. The fact that we can use their auxiliary gym, we can use their cafeteria and we can use their auditorium, gives us flexibility on spacing people out.”

Among other winter sports:

• The PIAA competitive cheer championship was scheduled for April 10 in Hershey.

• Basketball teams listed higher on the bracket can host playoff games in the state tournament, assuming the two opponents share the same side of the state, the PIAA board decided. That policy applies through the semifinal round. The PIAA took the same approach with football in the fall.

• The PIAA approved March 7 as the district deadline for team wrestling, but didn’t set a date for the team wrestling championships. The PIAA plans to hold the team championship sometime after the individual meet.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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