As the executive director of the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association, Garry Cathell has many questions but few answers regarding the state of high school football as we inch closer to the start of the fall season.
Although the current school year is not scheduled to end until June 30, high school football teams across the state would already be outside, conducting spring drills, preparing for 7-on-7 passing scrimmages ahead of the 2020 season that is scheduled to begin in August.
But will there even be a season?
That is the question Cathell has no answer for as the country is still embraced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states are beginning to open up and can begin outdoor athletic activities. Other states have drawn up proposals, ideas to help get the fall sports season off the ground.
“There are some things that we talked about,” Cathell said. “Those are yet to come out. There have definitely been discussions. We have been in good communication with the PIAA. Just like the PIAA, we are at the mercy of the governor’s office. We can do all the planning we want, but we can’t do anything until we get the go-ahead. It is a very delicate situation.”
Cathell said the PSFCA is forming multiple committees of coaches from across the state where ideas will be discussed with the intention of presenting their findings to PIAA executive director Dr. Robert Lombardi.
Cathell is looking towards keeping an open dialogue with Lombardi in regards to the possibility of having a football season in the safest manner possible.
“We want to work with the PIAA to throw out ideas of the coaches in the association to see how they feel,” Cathell said. “I am sure they will listen to what we have to say. Decisions have to be made along with the athletic directors and medical staff. There is a lot to consider when you are trying to make a decision like this.”
Just like the PIAA has maintained its stance that it will follow the guidelines set forth by Gov. Tom Wolf, the Department of Health and the CDC, Cathell said the PSFCA will continue to follow suit. Cathell also added that individual schools districts need to be heavily involved with any type of decision.
The color code as well as the guidelines of each color phase will be followed. If certain areas go from yellow to green, those in the green areas will still have restrictions to no more than 25 people at any particular workout conducted outside. In the red and yellow phases, all outdoor athletics are prohibited.
“We will have to discuss that if we get cleared to start outdoor workouts, will there just be one particular start date and whether or not everyone starts at the same time,” Cathell said. “Everybody is concerned, but everybody also understands. This is a unique situation.”
The National Federation of State High School Associations released a 16-page document on Tuesday providing guidelines as to how states should open up their facilities to workouts when given clearance. The biggest takeaway of the three phases is that in the first two, all coaches and student-athletes will be subjected to being screened for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 prior to the workout. There is a high emphasis placed on cleaning facilities.
A modified season has been discussed as has the potential to play games without fans, allowing just essential personnel inside the stadium, Cathell said. Several proposals have been discussed internally, he said, but it is too early to settle on any particular one since it is unknown when or if a start date will be announced. That is not to say the group has not circled a specific date as to when the idea of playing high school football in the state will not be feasible. Cathell believes Oct. 12 is the day that if the games have not started, the potential exists that they may never start.
“That Oct. 12 date is getting to the point where it will be pretty difficult to still put a season on, have some games,” Cathall said. “You are trying to fit it in a small window and you can’t go much past that to not get into the winter sports season.”
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.