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The Waiting Game

Members of the Butler Area High School boys cross country team do push-ups before a practice run Thursday evening. The PIAA on Friday voted to push back the start of the fall sports season two weeks.
PIAA pushes fall season back 2 weeks

Quinn Hughes heard the news and felt her heart sink in her chest.

“No,” she thought. “This can't be happening.”

Quinn, an incoming senior at Knoch High School, had already lost a softball season to the coronavirus pandemic in the spring.

Now, she was looking at the possibility of losing a volleyball campaign this fall when Gov. Tom Wolf recommended scuttling school and recreational sports until Jan. 1 at his news conference Thursday morning.

“It angered me,” she said. “I'm not going to lie.”

But Friday, Quinn and athletes like her all over the commonwealth got a sliver of hope when the PIAA board of directors voted 30-2 to only postpone the start of the fall sports season for two weeks while they try to persuade Wolf to soften his stance.“I'm super happy that the PIAA is taking charge and trying to fight for us,” Quinn said. “I'm going to try to keep my team positive and myself positive as well. It's hard to do that, but it's the only thing we can do. We can't take anything for granted.”Wolf got the backing of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Department of Education on his recommendation Thursday.The PIAA met that afternoon and decided to meet again Friday to come to a consensus.That consensus was to wait it out.“I think the PIAA wants to provide hope for the athletes and coaches and us administrators who are losing our sanity a little bit in the hopes Wolf will change his recommendation,” said Butler athletic director Bill Mylan. “I firmly believe that's what's going on here.”PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi answered criticism Friday afternoon that the board was just kicking the can down the road.“As you know, the announcement was made (Thursday), so with a little more than 24 hours, you're asking the board of directors to make a decision that could negatively impact hundreds of thousands of athletes,” Lombardi said. “The board takes that very seriously, and buying a couple of weeks time ... is very wise.”Lombardi said the PIAA was inundated with emails and phone calls Thursday night asking the organization to not postpone or cancel fall sports.Social media was also flooded with pleas from coaches, athletes and parents to let sports continue.“I can show you some of those emails — they're pretty intense with people speaking from the heart,” Lombardi said. “We owe them our best effort.”Mandatory team activities won't begin until Aug. 24 with the first play date pushed back to Sept. 11.The WPIAL had already postponed its start until Sept. 10.In the meantime, voluntary workouts and open gyms can continue as they have for the past six weeks.Scott Heinauer, Mars athletic director and head football coach, said he hopes the PIAA can convince Wolf to at least let the seasons begin.“Why not give these kids a chance to play and if it doesn't work out, then you have at least tried?” Heinauer said. “I think everyone would understand if that happened that way. I just know how hard all of our athletes have worked and to cancel the season ... is not right.”Seneca Valley incoming senior Sarah White, one of the best volleyball players in the state, said her main sort of frustration is the day-to-day uncertainty.“I just wish we had a little more consistency on how we all should manage this situation so everyone's on the same page,” she said. “Whatever decision is made, we have to make the best of it.”Knoch volleyball coach Diane Geist has been on the bench for more than three decades.She hasn't seen anything like this.Her appeal is a common one.“The girls want to play,” she said. “The parents want them to play. The coaches want to play. We've been following the protocols for open gyms since July 1 with no problems. You just hate to pull the rug out from under the players who have been faithfully training for this season.”

Members of the Butler Area High School Cross County team start a practice run Thursday evening at the senior high school. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 08/06/20