MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — After four weeks of chaotic shuffling, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association wants to restore order to the high school fall sports schedule. The group clarified the forfeit guidance which could cause previous cancellations to be considered forfeits and may preclude teams from making playoffs.

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Over one dozen Midstate football games have been canceled due to COVID-19 issues in various schools, leading their opponents to scramble to find someone to fill a Friday night hole.

While many have been successful in scheduling new contests, the PIAA wanted a consistent protocol that could cause teams to forfeit games due to COVID-19 issues.

If a game has to be postponed for any reason (including COVID-19), every attempt to reschedule must be made. In the case of football, this is often impossible as teams can conceivably only play one game per week. Therefore, if the game cannot be rescheduled, it will be considered a forfeit unless the school can convince the district committee it had no other option.

PIAA District III Chairman Doug Bohannon explained if both teams agree to cancel the game it is a no contest. But if one team decides not to play because key players are out due to COVID-19 or another injury issue, that would be considered a forfeit.

According to Bohannon, a no contest is usually agreed upon if one team is shut down and isn’t practicing. If the District Committee or the opponent finds out a school is looking to cancel a game but is still practicing, that’s where a forfeit may come into play.

“A key principle in the PIAA Philosophy provision of the PIAA By-Laws provides that attempts to “get around the rules” are actions that subvert the purposes of interscholastic athletics and are unacceptable,” according to the guidance adopted by the PIAA on September 15. “Similarly, Section 1B of the PIAA Sportsmanship and Unsportsmanlike Conduct section of the By-Laws specifies that it is unsportsmanlike conduct for a school to cancel or reschedule a Contest for an athletic purpose.”

PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz clarified that the number of games needed to be playoff eligible varies from sport to sport, but teams must play at least 50 percent of scheduled contests.

Another factor to consider for schools that are shut down, the length of shutdown determines how many practices a team must have before returning to competition. If a school is shut down for sevens days, it must have two practices; 10-day shutdown, three days of practice; 14-day shutdown, four practices.

Bohannon also said some schools agree to take the no contest in football because it allows the school to try to find another opponent to play on a Friday or Saturday. If “School A” accepts “School B’s” forfeit, “School A” cannot schedule another game that week to take its place.

Guidance adopted by PIAA

The following standards shall apply for the 2021-2022 school year:

  1. In the event a Regular Season Contest is postponed for whatever reason, including Covid-19 issues, all attempts must be made to re-schedule that Contest during the Regular Season.
  1. If the Contest cannot be rescheduled, the failure of a Team to participate in a scheduled Contest shall constitute an automatic forfeit, regardless of the reason(s) thereof, unless the school not participating convinces the District Committee that it made reasonable efforts to avoid an outbreak and that its failure to participate was unavoidable, in which event the District Committee may treat the matter as if the Contest had not been scheduled (No Contest).
  1. If a school has sufficient personnel who are not subject to quarantine to participate in a Contest, but chooses not to play, that school will forfeit the Contest.

In any instance where a District Committee determines that a school postponed or canceled a Contest for competitive reasons, the applicable Team and its school personnel may be subjected to any of the penalties described in Article XIII of the PIAA By-Laws.

Friday Night Football returns for its 25th season on abc27. Started in 1997 by longtime abc27 Sports Director Gregg Mace, FNF was the first of its kind in Central PA.

Back in 2018, the show was expanded to 45 minutes of highlights, analysis, and reaction. It remains the longest show in the Midstate highlighting high school football for thirteen weeks of the season.

You can watch abc27 Friday Night Football starting at 11:15 p.m. each Friday night on television, or on the web on our Watch Live page. Damon TurbittAllie BerubeLogan Reever, and John Repetz break down the best games in the area, bring you closer to the action and give you a comprehensive look at the Mid Penn Conference, Lancaster-Lebanon League, and YAIAA each week.