In 2017, Scott Martin, then a first-year State Senator, attended the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee’s annual hearing, just as an observer, because he was interested in the topic.
An outgoing member, Senator Joseph B. Scarnati, sidled over to Martin afterward and told him, “You’re going to replace me on this committee.’’
Scarnati was right, and now Martin is the committee’s chairman, a position he was voted to unanimously at this year’s annual meeting Tuesday. The Lancaster Republican replaces former chair Gene DiGirolamo, who has left the state legislature and is now a Bucks County Commissioner.
The PIAA’s decision to go forward with a 2020 fall sports season dominated Tuesday’s hearing.
“You know, we’re talking about more than a game here,’’ Martin said, adding that extracurricular activities, “are very much critical in how our kids socialize, how they develop their mental, social and physical well-being. “I can tell you that many times (they) are an anchor to keep kids involved in their education.’’
The Pennsylvania General Assembly investigated the PIAA in the late 1990s, the upshot of which was the creation of 13 principles to which the PIAA would supposedly be compelled to adhere, and the creation of a legislative Pa. Athletic Oversight Committee to ensure compliance with the principles.
The committee had 12 members then. Now it has half that many. Its influence and activity level have waxed and waned over the years, although it did hold high-profile hearings in recent years on competitive balance issues.
“It seems to me that the committee was much more active in 2018, 2019,’’ Martin said Tuesday. “We were very involved with the transfer and boundary vs. non-boundary issues and data collection in those areas. I’d like to see us be a little more proactive.’’
Martin played football and won a state heavyweight wrestling title at Lancaster Catholic. He wrestled briefly at Millersville University, before focusing, wisely, on just football.
He became a Division II All-American, was an undrafted free agent signee of the New York Giants and played parts of three seasons in the Arena Football League.
“Whether you’re a football player or a band member or a field hockey player or even in the chess club, there’s things that kids get involved in to complete their development,’’ Martin said during Tuesday’s hearing.
“I’m living proof of that.’’
Martin also announced Tuesday that Thomas Haines will serve as an assistant executive director of the committee. Haines is a four-time state wrestling champion at Solanco High School who also wrestled at Lock Haven University.
Haines formerly interned in Martin’s office, and now works at the State Capitol in research and policy analysis.