The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association approved Wednesday a shortening of preseason practice from 15 to 10 sessions for most high school sports.
The move came in a 27-2 vote of the PIAA Board of Directors in a virtual meeting, and made permanent a change adopted last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many schools had to stop their seasons and preseasons due to COVID issues during the 2020-21 school year, so the PIAA made an on-the-fly change allowing 10 practices, rather than 15, to be completed before teams could begin or resume playing games.
Wednesday’s move, which takes effect in the 2022-23 school year, makes the 10-practice minimum an ongoing policy. It does not include football, for which five days of heat acclimatization practices and then 10 regular practices will continue to be required, and golf and tennis, which start their seasons earlier than most sports and do not require heavily structured team practice.
This move would likely change the start of the regular season for fall, winter, and spring sports seasons and create greater overlap between the seasons.
For example, the starting date for winter sports practice for the current (2021-22) school year is Nov. 19 and the regular season begins Dec. 10. The first round of the state football playoffs is Nov. 20, with the championship games to be played Dec. 9-11.
Next school year, the regular season - i.e. the earliest possible playing date after preseason practice has been completed - will be a week earlier.
In the fall-to-winter transition, the difference would be negligible for sports other than football, because, as PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi said Monday, “all the other sports are done by Thanksgiving.’’
In winter-to-spring, the difference would be equally negligible with the exception of basketball. The 2022 basketball finals are scheduled for March 24-26, and the spring regular season begins March 25.
Wednesday’s other major move was a modification of the PIAA competition formula. The formula, which has been in place since 2019, requires teams that, 1. include transfers, and 2. attain a number of “success points,’’ based on success in postseason competition over a two-year enrollment cycle, to move down one enrollment class starting in the following enrollment cycle.
The change adopted Wednesday will allow a team to drop back down to its original class after the two-year cycle is complete, provided it has no success points in those two years.
Also receiving final approval Wednesday was a proposal from PIAA executive staff to adopt, “an Emerging Sports Process Guide for developing jurisdiction and championships for new sports programs.’’
Lombardi said PIAA has received inquiries from schools regarding water polo, rugby, girls’ wrestling and ice hockey.
“Now they have a road map,’’ Lombardi said. “(The guide) offers some direction for the board and for the schools.’’
Water polo is already played by some Pennsylvania high schools, but PIAA doesn’t currently offer a postseason or championship. Many high schools sponsor ice hockey teams, but the sport is not under PIAA jurisdiction.
The Board of Directors’ next meeting, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8, will be the first in-person meeting at PIAA headquarters in Mechanicsburg since before the pandemic, in January of 2019.