By Peter Ryan '21
Across Philadelphia, schools are delaying their fall sports season to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Specific dates and policies for individual schools’ fall athletics vary by region and conference.
Fall sports for public schools will be determined by state and district policies regarding school reopening, as well as PIAA statewide guidelines for high school athletics. The PIAA’s current plan says that practices cannot begin before August 17, and that most sports (excluding golf, tennis, and football) cannot play interscholastic games until September 4. The PIAA shared two additional hybrid plans that can be used instead of their current plan; these models would open play on either September 14 or October 5, depending on public health circumstances. The Philadelphia School District has not yet ruled out fall sports, even though it will not open any schools until November.
Although most Philadelphia-area private schools will open their campus for academic classes, athletic leagues like the Inter-Ac, Friends League, and Philadelphia Catholic League will not begin competitive play until after students return to class. It is not yet clear whether private conferences will allow their teams to compete in the PIAA state championships, as contact with teams outside of their respective conferences increases potential exposure to COVID-19.
The Inter-Ac will restrict all member schools to conference play this fall, with practices beginning no sooner than September 14. According to Germantown Academy athletic director Tim Ginter, “the (Inter-Ac) schools will continue to evaluate additional information as it becomes available.”
On August 17, the Friends League announced that no competitive play will take place for the remainder of 2020; all fall sports will be postponed indefinitely. Schools are permitted to independently begin practices and play non-conference games during the fall. According to Friends Select Athletic Director Bill Klose, the league is considering postponing seasons for contact sports such as soccer and field hockey.
The most comprehensive fall policy of any conference has come from the Philadelphia Catholic League. On Wednesday, August 5, the PCL announced that football games will commence on September 18, while all other sports will not begin until October 2. Non-football sports may hold non-contact practices starting on August 28, with full practice beginning on September 14. “We hope our student-athletes can enjoy a competitive and safe athletic experience this fall if the opportunity presents itself,” said League Chair and Archbishop Ryan Principal Joseph McFadden.