It is a tradition, and you know how I feel about the general concept of tradition:  We’re a worthless, dying culture without it.

But the tradition in question is one I certainly wouldn’t mind losing: Two-a-day football practices.

I’d love to claim the idea as my own, but it is not, of course: The NFL has banned the idea in its new collective bargaining agreement, and the NCAA only permits two-a-days on every other day.  Yet at the scholastic level, it lives on, starting Monday.

I suppose such a view is heretical to some, especially hide-bound traditionalists like me.  But think about it:  With summer camps, 7-on-7s (which I believe will expand to legal 11-on-11 gatherings some day) and constant summer workouts, are two-a-days really necessary?

No, they aren’t.

Everyone knows the pro-two-a-day argument: Football is much more intricate than any other high school sport (true, IMO) and demands more time to develop, especially the offense.   Those 5-6 hours of practice per day are necessary.

Sorry, doesn’t wash anymore.  Last year, several schools in the Harrisburg area started classes a week earlier than normal.  Of course, coaches moaned because they lost the two-a-days in the second week of practice.  Yet, somehow, their players managed to play football, some reasonably well, come September.

The simple fact is most high school football programs practice during the summer.  The PIAA now permits players to wear helmets and shoulder pads and use school equipment during “workouts.” About the only thing that is really prohibited is physical contact, which the PIAA tried to narrow down by definition last year.

I agree with these changes, if for no other reason than to eliminate the sham practices that coaches were trying finesse during the summer.  In fact, 7-on-7s grew out of the prohibitions; there were only so many days kids could just weave through cones and lift weights without retreating to their X-Boxes for some excitement.

Indeed, that accounts for the growth of 11-on-11 gatherings, still illegal in PIAA, although there is a way around that rule, too.

Basketball coaches figured out a while ago that they could bypass the PIAA’s off-season prohibitions by forming community leagues, getting sponsors, throwing on T-shirts and playing full-out hoop games in this “league.”  The fact that the teams in the league just happened to be comprised of the very same players who comprised their upcoming high school team and were coached by their high school coach, well, no rule against that.

Football can do the same thing, with one critical exception:  No tackling or skin-on-skin blocking.  In other words, football teams can use school helmets and shoulder pads while forming a community league and play, essentially, 11-on-11 touch or flag football games.

Some might think this ridiculous, but I consider it fair:  Athletes in every other scholastic sport – baseball, softball, tennis, wrestling, volleyball, swimming, et al. – can participate in their sports outside the defined season without penalty and basically without restriction in terms of competition.  Why not football without the hitting?

I especially like the idea when combined with a concept implemented at Donegal High School in Lancaster County this past month: a mandatory dead period.  Donegal athletic director Ron Kennedy instituted a 10-day no contact period from July 1-10.  It was a comprehensive policy: No weight lifting, no workouts, no contact between coaches and athletes.

The idea was to give athletes a genuine break.  It also recognized that summer workouts, while theoretically voluntary, were eating up a large portion of the supposed summer break.  I’m all for it.


Ah, yes.  The online equivalent of a programming note.

I will be live blogging the PIAA Board of Directors straight outta the Nittany Lion Inn on Thursday night and Friday morning as well as providing updates (possibly a chat) from the PIAA Basketball Championships at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The BOD agenda isn’t terribly sexy, but there are – yet again – a couple of football items that appear on Thursday’s agenda.

Basically, the executive staff was tasked with drawing up brackets for a four-class, 15-week season that brought all of the district champions into the state bracket at the same time.  That’s a little different twist on some similar proposals from the past.  There have been plenty of 15-week proposals in recent years, but none those brought all district reps into the bracket at the same time. Suggested by District 10 chairman Wally Blucas, the new proposal, if enacted, will be informally known as Wally’s World.

The upshot of Wally’s World is that districts that currently have 16-team tournaments (Districts 1, 3 and 7) will have to slash a week or adjust regular-season schedules.  Fat chance.

The second proposal is, yes, the revival of six classifications in order to reduce the football calendar from 16 weeks to 15 weeks.

That six-classification thing is the Dracula of PIAA.  It gets killed, buried and ends up rising again like clockwork (“I vant to drink your 16th veek”) only to be viciously attacked by District 7.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the WPIAL contingent on the Board enter the Assembly Room of the Nittany Lion Inn draped in garlic and toting .45s with silver bullets in their chest pockets.

It might take drastic measures, too; PIAA exec direc Brad Cashman is in favor of 15 weeks.  Given that, is it just a coincidence that the room PIAA uses for Board meetings at the NLI is in the basement and has no direct sunlight?  Or mirrors?

Wait … is that a wooden stake that WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley is pulling out of his luggage?

Also, I should be able to post updated PIAA swimming records – that involved real work this year thanks to Hershey’s David Nolan – by the end of the veek, er, week.  And I really should get to the District 3 and PIAA wrestling records straightaway, although I’ll have to engage in my annual sumo wrestling match with the IRS first.

Just letting you know that, like Dracula and 15-week football, isn’t dead.

Let’s see … did I remember to pack my holy water?


No, has not branched into broadcasting. We’ll leave that to actual broadcasters.

Below are listing of televised broadcasts of Pennsylvania scholastic football games this season. The first list is games that will be broadcast on Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN); the second is WPIAL games that will be broadcast on Comcast Cable.

The PCN list is here: PCN TV SCHEDULE

The Comcast list is here: COMCAST TV SCHEDULE

There are some pretty good games in both lists. PCN kicks off strongly with the Gateway at McDevitt game live on Saturday, Sept. 4. A note of caution: PCN is listing the start time of the game 2 p.m.; the game begins at noon.

Of course, PCN will pick up the Selinsgrove at Manheim Central game on Sept. 17, a rematch of last year’s bruising PIAA Class AAA championship game. PCN will also pick up the Sept. 24 West Allegheny at Upper St. Clair game on a taped basis; that game will be aired on Comcast on the 25th on a taped basis as well.

The TV market is getting stronger for high school games on a statewide basis, and that’s a good thing. (I have to send out props to Paul Padelsky, the high school sports point man at PCN, and Bob Grove, a media relations specialist for Comcast. Full disclosure: Bob was my best man for my first wedding, although given another opportunity he’d probably refuse after seeing how that turned out).

Enjoy your TV games.

And a programming note: will provide blog coverage of a selected Game of the Week as well. I will likely be at the La Salle College at North Penn game on Friday, Sept. 3, and definitely at the Gateway at Bishop McDevitt game on Saturday, Sept. 4. Future games will be announced each Tuesday along with the weekly state high school football rankings.

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