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Pioneer Athletic Conference delays preseason until Sept. 7, games until Sept. 25

The Pioneer Athletic Conference on Thursday announced plans to delay the start of the fall sports season.

Fall practices and heat acclimatization will begin Monday, Sept. 7 while competitions and games are allowed to begin Friday, Sept. 25. The decision came after a meeting of league principals on Wednesday.

The PAC became the latest in a long list of Pennsylvania leagues to delay the start of fall sports. Also Thursday, the Suburban One League’s executive committee stated its intent to delay most sports by two weeks and football by four weeks. Previously, the Ches-Mont League, members of the Central League, the Inter-Ac and Philadelphia Catholic League have already opted to push back the start of fall sports.

PAC President and Pottsgrove High School Principal Bill Ziegler indicated the biggest factors leading to officials recommending a delay were safety concerns surrounding COVID-19 and the uncertainty about league members’ return to school plans and decision to participate in fall sports.

“This will allow our school districts ample time to decide on their direction and participation in sports this fall,” the release stated. “This is especially important as some schools are still deciding on whether to hold learning in in-person, virtual, or in a hybrid environment.”

Norristown stated its intention to cancel fall sports on July 30. It remains to be seen if other PAC schools will take a similar course.

“Norristown has decided not to participate in fall sports, but there is still debate out there from other schools. It gives everybody more time,” Ziegler said in an interview Thursday.

Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf, in a press conference Thursday morning, made his most direct statement to date about the future of PIAA sports this fall, saying, “The guidance from us, the recommendation is that we don’t do any sports until January 1st.”

The Governor’s recommendation came after the PAC’s meeting on Wednesday.

“We did not know the information from the Governor so we will reconvene and discuss this at our next meeting,” said Ziegler, who indicated the meeting would be within the next two weeks.

Individual schools will be able to determine their use of the now-postponed weeks in August. All PAC schools had offseason safety protocols approved by the school board earlier in the summer, measures that could be kept in place to continue to allow voluntary workouts.

Despite the decision to delay, Ziegler hopes sports in the PAC can happen this fall.

“I would say I’m hopeful. I’m very hopeful we can,” he said. “As a conference, we understand the importance that athletics play in the lives of our student-athletes and it’s such an important part. We take it day by day and hope it’s something that can work out.”

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