Surprise announcement from Wolf casts doubt on fate of fall sports in Pa. schools

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UPDATED: 4:20 p.m. 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf says he is recommending no school sports until at least the start of 2021. The announcement, made at the very end of a nearly 40-minute press briefing about coronavirus testing, caught just about everyone by surprise. 

The governor was asked a follow-up to a question from earlier this week about whether parents would be allowed to watch their kids play sports.

"The guidance is we ought to avoid any congregate settings. And that means anything that brings people together is going to help that virus get us. And we ought to do everything we can to defeat that virus," Wolf said. "So anytime we get together for any reason that’s a problem because it makes it easier for that virus to spread. So the guidance from us, the recommendation is that we don’t do any sports until Jan. 1."

About five hours later, the governor’s office clarified the comment, saying it’s not an order or a mandate but a "strong recommendation" from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Department of Health.

The governor said the recommendation applies to all K-12 and youth recreational league sports, but the final decision on sports should be made by administrators and locally elected school boards.

According to the press release, highlights of the recommendation include:

• Applies to team and individual, school and non-school recreational youth sports;

• Includes competitions, intramural play and scrimmages;

• Continue conditioning, drills and other training activities on an individual basis;

• Does not apply to collegiate and professional sports;

• Gathering limits remain unchanged - no more than 25 persons may gather indoors and 250 outdoors.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association had an emergency meeting of their board of directors Thursday, and released a statement afterwards, saying they are "disappointed" in Wolf's decision and will meet Friday to address it. 

PIAA Update: pic.twitter.com/ue7q7xQy9U

— PIAA (@PIAASports) August 6, 2020

Earlier this week, the governor said he thought it would be difficult to justify allowing scholastic sports to go forward in districts that were voting for instruction to be virtual rather than in-person.

The PIAA put out guidance for each fall sport at the end of July. Similar to the governor’s guidance on schools, their plan offered flexibility for each school district rather than a one-size-fits-all plan.