PIAA board looking into ejections during fall season

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 11:46 p.m.

HERSHEY – The increase in player and coach ejections during the fall season raised concern with members of the PIAA's Board of Directors.

During Thursday's Board of Directors' meeting, one of the many issues discussed was the rising number of player and coach ejections among fall sports. The increase in ejections between players and coaches for football and soccer were the highest. A total of 206 players and or coaches were removed from football games this season. This is a 33-percent increase since 2007.

A total of 427 male and female athletes and or coaches were ejected from soccer matches this fall, a 13-percent increase from last year. This number takes into account the change of season for soccer and even with that change combines data from last year's fall and spring seasons.

Board members said part of the soccer ejection increase is because of the elimination of soft red cards. Foul language was the most cited reason for the 366 player and 53 coach ejections in soccer, PIAA Assistant Executive Director Pat Gebhart said. In football, fighting among players continues to be the top problem leading to player ejections.

Merchandise sales

While the behavior of the product on the field came into question, the early financial reports from souvenir merchandise from fall sports was a success. Golf and cross country saw an increase in merchandise sales while field hockey's financial summary for the PIAA Fall Championships was down.

This was largely because Hurricane Sandy impacted the first round, therefore field hockey saw a financial decrease of $6,130.29 this year. The girls team tennis net receipts remained nearly the same.

Girls volleyball saw an increase by more than $3,000 but final net receipts for all fall sports won't be made available until the January meeting.

The addition of competitive spirit also brings with it promise for increases in merchandise sales. Board members said research shows that the addition of that sport typically has the largest merchandise sales, something they will find out in the coming months.

Competitive spirit

A tentative schedule for the competitive spirit championships will be released in the coming days, but there are still issues involving the sport. Many of the top teams have more than four male members, something PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz said will need to be addressed in the future.

“Early on when we were talking about formatting our championship with folks from UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) we felt it wasn't necessary for us to have a co-ed division this first year,” Mertz said. “We had a lot of discussion about it, talked about it at the steering committee and we all agreed we wouldn't. The issue that has come to light lately through the gender participation surveys we were doing is that some teams that could possibly qualify for a state championship have more than just one or two boys.

“This is something we're definitely going to have to attack as we move forward. I think it's something we're going to have to look at as far as having a co-ed division.”

Mertz said the PIAA can't prohibit those squads from showing up with boys and competing for a state title.

Also brought up at the meeting was the on-going discussion of figuring out if an athlete desires a transfer because of bullying. Members said making sure to look at the intent of the transfer is key, especially if parents or the student try to cite improved academics at another school as the main reason.

“We do that with academics all the time when students transfer from school A to school B,” PIAA President James Zack said. “We'll have to continue to look at it.”

Football ruling

The football steering committee met earlier Thursday and passed on a first-reading basis a rule that follows New Jersey's heat acclimation guideline. The hope is that athletes will gradually be worked back into the sport while taking summertime heat and the athletes' fatigue into consideration.

The main changes are that the first three days of the fall season will not be allowed to have more than three hours of on-field practice. Only helmets may be worn the first two days for football and full pads can be worn on the third day. Also, a full day of practice can not exceed five hours. Athletes must also receive a three-hour recovery after any session that lasts longer than two hours.

The wording of the rule could be altered in the coming months since it passed on just a first-read basis.

Audrey Snyder is a staff writer for the (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.

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