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Joint Statement Regarding Fall Athletics

Last week, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that their high schools will not be competing in fall sports this season. Once informed of that decision, the three remaining schools in the Philadelphia Catholic League -- Devon Prep, La Salle College High School, and St. Joseph’s Prep -- agreed to play a modified Fall 2020 Catholic League schedule and will include non-league competition with fellow all-boys independent Catholic school Holy Ghost Prep. 

All four schools intend to compete against one another in cross country, golf, and soccer. Both La Salle and St. Joe’s are also still exploring opportunities to play football this fall.

With no guarantee that fall sports could be held in the spring, the decision to hold even an abbreviated season was important to the schools’ administrators, citing three major factors:

  1. As part of the ideal of caring for the whole person, the four schools recognize that physical activity, specifically athletics, are vital for a student’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. With a little over 2,600 boys enrolled at the four schools and nearly 2,000 students participating in athletics, these programs extend beyond the playing field and provide a critical role in each school’s community by having a direct effect on other extracurricular clubs and activities such as music and student-run broadcasts and publications.
  2. This might be the final season for many students to represent their schools, earn a varsity letter, have a Senior Day celebration, and be a part of a competitive team. As we witnessed last spring, many senior athletes were unable to have their final seasons. We have made the decision this fall to try and play in order to not have that happen again. Also, for some seniors, these games are a final opportunity to earn much-needed athletic scholarships that could impact their college options.
  3. All four schools are committed to affording their student-athletes the opportunity to compete at the highest level and, as such, are members of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) which has announced that it is continuing to sponsor sports in the fall. Although the Archdiocese of Philadelphia felt confident that the PIAA would “provide alternative solutions for those entities opting out of fall programs” there is no indication that the PIAA would modify state championships for the fall season.

“The four independent Catholic secondary schools for young men belonging to the PIAA have a long relationship with each other, a friendly rivalry that makes each school better and more competitive. We share a mutual belief that we are able to train and practice safely with many of our athletic teams and in conformity with the guidance we have received to date. We hope to be able to provide our fall athletes with opportunities to compete both among ourselves and with other schools that have availability in their schedules. The safety of the students entrusted to our care is an essential concern; so is their development as individual persons and a community.  We have committed to work prudently and energetically together in support of both those common goals.”

--Brother James Butler, FSC, President of La Salle College High School

“While we respect the decision of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we believe that we can offer athletic opportunities for our student-athletes in a safe, controlled manner. Utilizing each schools’ Return to Play protocols, which were approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Department of Health and endorsed by the PIAA, we feel strongly that a fall sports season can be done safely. We will take every precaution to ensure that all of our coaches and players are following strict protocols.”

--Dan DiBerardinis, Athletic Director of St. Joseph’s Preparatory School

“Athletics play an important part in the lives of our student-athletes, not only from a physical standpoint but from a social and emotional perspective as well. A primary part of our reopening plan at Devon included providing athletic opportunities for our students in a safe and healthy way as an attempt to help aid their physical, social and emotional development. Over the summer we ran reintegration camps through July to get our student-athletes engaged and participating. That was a great experience for our students and we look forward to continuing to provide these opportunities as long as we are able." 

-- Jason Fisher, Athletic Director of Devon Prep

“It’s a real pleasure to work with the like-minded leadership of each of these schools. While we all share the common commitment to provide an opportunity for our students to safely compete, we do so with a mission that uniquely defines each of our school communities.”

--Gregory J. Geruson, President of Holy Ghost Prep

Each sport will be handling the modified season differently. More information will be shared once it is available. 


What makes you confident you can do this safely?

Our top priority is to keep our student-athletes and coaches safe while also providing an opportunity to compete in their respective sports. These protocols were developed by public health experts with the safety of all in mind and were approved by state and local health officials. Each school has implemented their own safety protocols and we are confident that they align with one another in our efforts to do this safely. 

Many of our student-athletes are already competing in their respective sports outside of school. By offering school-sponsored fall athletics, this will allow them to play in a more structured environment with stringent safety measures.

What is the Philadelphia Catholic League?

The Philadelphia Catholic League is an association of Catholic high schools that was founded in 1920. La Salle College High School and St. Joseph’s Prep were two of the five founding members along with Roman Catholic, Villanova Prep (now Malvern Prep), and West Catholic. The league is currently composed of 18 Catholic high schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs (3 schools playing only girls sports, 5 schools playing only boys sports, and 10 schools playing both). Devon Prep joined the PCL in 2018. 

How does the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s decision affect the Philadelphia Catholic League?

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia (AOP) is a local entity consisting of 17 Catholic high schools in the five-county region. The AOP is a system of secondary schools operating under the jurisdiction of the Office of Catholic Education and Faith in the Future and is recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education as a school district spanning several counties. The AOP has no official jurisdiction over the Philadelphia Catholic League nor does it govern Devon Prep, Holy Ghost Prep, La Salle College High School, or St. Joseph’s Prep. All four schools are independent Catholic schools under the authority of individual governing bodies. The decision on the part of the AOP to suspend fall sports essentially left Devon Prep, La Salle College High School, and St. Joseph’s Prep in league with 12 less opponents.

Why is Holy Ghost Prep being added to the group for the fall?

Being an independent Catholic school playing as an independent, Holy Ghost Prep was able to make a decision of its own, based on the PIAA and by fulfilling the requirements of state and local Departments of Health. Although it is a Catholic school, it is not under the oversight and direction of the Office of Catholic Education of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and operates independently. 

After being a member of the Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) since the 1970s, Holy Ghost Prep decided to become an independent in all sports beginning with this school year. The decision allowed Holy Ghost to remain in the PIAA while building stronger schedules in all sports. 

For example, the Holy Ghost Prep soccer team, a traditional PIAA District One power, had put together a top-shelf schedule for the fall—including four games vs. Inter-Ac teams, four against Philadelphia Catholic League teams, and three vs. Central League teams. 

But when those three aforementioned leagues postponed their fall seasons, Holy Ghost Prep had to find opponents to schedule soccer games, golf matches, and cross-country meets against, so they reached out to La Salle, St. Joseph’s Prep, and Devon Prep, three like-minded Catholic independent schools that Ghost has established and longstanding relationships with. 


Why aren’t rowing and ultimate frisbee, two spring sports that traditionally have some competitions in the fall, included?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Rowing, the governing body for that sport, made the decision not to allow any fall competitions. A similar decision was made by Philadelphia High School Ultimate Education League (PHUEL) to postpone all fall ultimate frisbee matches as well. 


Will these four schools compete more officially moving forward?

Using the camaraderie of college athletics Philadelphia Big Five as a model, it is possible that these schools will compete against one another in a regular non-league manner and anoint a champion in some sports in the future. However, each school will continue to compete in their regular leagues/affiliations.


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