Could public schools look to leave the PIAA?

Written by Matt Allibone,Frank Bodani,Dustin B Levy and Pat Huggins/The York Daily Record | Jul 13, 2018 11:14 AM

West York's Ay'Jaun Marshall carries the ball late in the game. West York defeats Kennard-Dale 34-28 in football at West York Area High School, Friday, September 29, 2017. (Photo: Paul Chaplin, For GametimePA)

(Undated) -- It's no secret that some Pennsylvania public school officials and fans aren't happy with the current high school playoff system. But could those schools feel strongly enough to leave the PIAA and form another organization? 

According to a report from Erie Times-News, that topic is expected to be discussed between representatives of at least 75 public schools at a meeting in State College on July 24. The intent is to talk about the "the current inequity" of the PIAA playoff system, and the ongoing debate of creating separate tournaments for boundary and non-boundary schools. 

According to the report, an email about the meeting was recently sent to superintendents and school officials throughout the state. The email includes discussing of "the possible formation of a separate entity to provide a fair, equitable playing field for all students and schools in Pennsylvania if appropriate action is not taken by either the PIAA or through legislation."

A number of athletic directors in District 3 confirmed they knew about the meeting. 

However, most local ADs that spoke to GameTimePA either aren't attending or are still discussing the situation with their superintendents and principals. None expressed any dissatisfaction with the PIAA, though they are well-aware of the debate regarding the current playoff format. 

Red Lion athletic director Arnold Fritzius said he is attending the meeting, but thinks the idea of replacing the PIAA is "silly." 

"We support the PIAA," Fritzius said. "We know they continue to look to improve things. I have no expectations for the meeting." 

Additionally, Littlestown athletic director Jeff Laux and Gettysburg athletic director Casey Thurston said they are still discussing with their supervisors whether to attend. Hanover's Doug Wherley said he is aware of the meeting but not planning to attend. 

A handful of other athletic directors in York, Adams and Lebanon counties said they have little to no knowledge about the meeting. 

"I think that PIAA has school districts in mind when making decisions," Thurston said. "I think having open dialogue about it and having the right people have that conversation is what they're trying to do."

While the PIAA has no plans to create separate playoffs for private and public schools, the organization has been looking into competitive balance recently. Just last month, the organization proposed the creation of a competitive classification formula that will take into account enrollment size, athletic success and transfer athletes when deciding whether certain schools need to be bumped up a classification. The proposal includes the addition of a seventh classification for football and basketball. 

According to PIAA associate executive director Melissa Mertz, the PIAA board will hold a vote on the competitive classification formula on July 18. If passed, it will not go into effect until the 2020-21 school year. 

The board will also vote on a new in-season transfer rule that will prohibit students who transfer after the 10th grade from participating in the postseason for one year unless given an approved waiver. That rule will go into effect immediately if passed. 

Mertz said that if schools are frustrated with the PIAA, they can go through the process of having their official representative bring a complaint to the board. She reiterated that creating separate playoff tournaments for boundary and non-boundary schools is not on the table since it would require new legislation. A 1972 state law requires the PIAA to include nonpublic schools in its playoffs. 

"I'm not sure what this groups of superintendents hopes to achieve by meeting, maybe just having a discussion on those key points," Mertz said. "Just today I've talked to three ADs and they're all saying they're going (to the meeting) just to listen and even tell us what went on. I don't know if the number of those going is exactly indicative of if they want change." 

The debate over separating boundary and non-boundary schools in the postseason seems to have increased over the past year. Things reached a tipping point this winter, when star girls' basketball player Diamond Johnson transferred from a high school in Virginia to Class 3A powerhouse Neumann-Goretti right before the postseason and helped lead the team to a state title. 

Overall, seven of the 12 teams to win state titles in basketball this past season were non-boundary schools. In football, only two of the six teams to win state titles this past season were nonpublic programs. 


This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record.

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