WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. (KDKA) – High school football is back — and it’s hard to contain the excitement and the crowds.
Over the past weekend, many games appeared to exceed the limits on crowd size set down by the Allegheny County Health Department.
Parents and fans said it was their right watch, and they showed up in droves. Now the county says it’s considering enforcement options.
For generations, Friday night high school football has been close to the very heartbeat of southwestern Pennsylvania, and to many the prospect of limiting crowd size is an unacceptable break in tradition.
“West Mifflin is a pretty large borough and people want to see their football. I don’t know how they expect schools to stop it,” said West Mifflin athletic director Scott Stephenson.
At the Thomas Jefferson-West Mifflin game, close to 600 parents, boosters and fans showed up to root for their schools, far in excess of the limited number of tickets West Mifflin made available.
Athletic director Scott Stephenson said he had no choice but to let them in.
“People are gonna show up anyway. There were people threatening and called us, said, ‘I don’t care if you’re not having fans because we’re coming any way’ and what do we do at that point?” he said.
County spokesperson Amie Downs says the county health department is considering its options. Downs said the county has received numerous complaints and reports from West Mifflin and other communities about fans flaunting the limits on crowd size. The county, she says, is now weighing enforcement options.
Part of the problem is confusion over just how many fans are allowed. County guidelines allows multiple groups or pods of people limited to 100. They could be teams, coaches. cheerleaders, or groups of fans. But they must be social distanced in the stands and in separate sections. At West Mifflin — though most fans wore masks — the fans seemed clumped together in violation.
“It is what it is, I guess. If there’s repercussions, there’s repercussions. I mean, we’ll deal with them, but I don’t know how they expect us to stop these people.”
Stephenson said the rules are beyond the district’s power to enforce and he’s hoping Governor Wolf doesn’t veto a bill that has passed the state Senate to exempt the games.
“Moving forward I hope it gets passed into law. So we can go back to normal,” he said.
But Governor Wolf has vowed to veto that bill and right now the state is recommending no crowds at high school football games.