With the debate over the length of the PIAA football season in the rearview mirror, it would seem that football is status quo at the PIAA Board of Directors level.
It is not.
The PIAA board is embroiled in a discussion -- some might call it a battle -- over how to handle a proposed heat acclimatization program that, no matter how it is implemented, will greatly affect the start of the football practice.
Prompted by concerns from the PIAA's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee over heat-related illness, the Board considered in December a proposal to use the first three days of football practice for heat acclimatization, thus eliminating full-pad practice for two of those first three days.
It also provided limits on practice times and dictated recovery periods between practice sessions.
The proposal sparked enormous debate among the Board of Directors. Some were concerned that permitting only helmets and shoulder pads for football players during the first two days would leave players ill-prepared for a scrimmage on the first Saturday of the practice season.
As an alternative, the board discussed moving the heat acclimatization period to the week before the formal opening of practice, but that immediately met resistance from some on the board, based primarily on the additional cost of an early-practice period.
Simply put, the board was nowhere near consensus on the matter except on one portion: The issue must be resolved soon. The board, which had little to no input on recent legislative action that resulted in new state laws on sudden cardiac arrest syndrome, concussion care and gender equity reporting requirements, wants to act affirmatively before the General Assembly does.
As a result, the Board's Football Ad Hoc Committee will meet on March 21, at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center to try to hammer out a compromise on the matter. That compromise will be taken to the full board, which would vote on the matter on a second-reading basis. A final vote could come in May.
The Board of Directors is otherwise going through one of its quietest periods in recent memory. There are so few matters outside of editorial changes to the PIAA Handbook that Board meetings, previously marathon affairs, are being conducted in 3-4 hours, with plenty of time left for dinner.
PIAA team wrestling championship notes: The state dual meet titles won earlier this month by Canon-McMillan (Class AAA) and Bethlehem Catholic (Class AA) mark the first time since 2002 that both champions have repeated. Neighboring schools Easton and Wilson Area of District 11 won back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002.
But that wasn't the only news generated by the 15th Team Championships.
In the opening round on Feb. 4, West Lawn Wilson's Francesca Giorgio was beaten, 6-3, at 120 pounds by Bryson Haas of Parkland in Parkland's 38-18 triumph. That otherwise unremarkable result was the first time a female wrestler has participated in a PIAA wrestling championship event.
Of course, female wrestlers have made appearances for years at various levels, and several have wrestled in district tournaments. Some have weighed in for teams that qualified for the team championships, but none had ever taken the mat at the state championship level, including the individual tournament.
Giorgio, who comes from a long line of successful wrestlers in Berks County, has been very successful at the national level in female-only tournaments. She took an 11-17 record into last weekend's District 3 Class AAA section wrestling tournaments. It should be noted that only two of her wins are by forfeit, and four of those wins are by pin.
District 9 Class AA champion Redbank Valley made its first appearance in the state team championships a historic one, defeating Western Wayne, 45-30, for the school's 500th dual meet victory. It was timely, too: The Bulldogs lost their next two matches and were eliminated from the tournament.
Milestones, notes: North Hills football coach Jack McCurry has retired after 35 seasons, 281 victories, four WPIAL championships and the 1993 PIAA Class AAAA championship. ... Mike Whitehead, a long-time assistant at Cumberland Valley High School, was elevated to the head coaching position following the retirement of 300-plus game winner Tim Rimpfel. Cumberland Valley was set to name West York head coach Ron Miller to the job, but Miller had a last-minute change of heart. ... Kathy McCartney, the head basketball coach at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern for the past 27 years, won her 500th game in late January. ... Valley Forge Military Academy, an all-male boarding school in suburban Philadelphia, will join the PIAA next year. VFMA had post-graduates on its sports rosters for years, but found that was limiting its scheduling options. So the school has decided to abide by PIAA eligibility regulations and join PIAA. The school will be Class AA in most sports.