I started writing this when things were super slow this morning, long before the Chase Utley news dropped. Didn’t get back to it until now.
Anyway, not sure how many Crossing Broad readers give a crap about high school sports – maybe you’ve got a son or daughter on the football or basketball team – but there’s a superintendent out in Erie who will be leading a meeting with more than 75 schools later this month to discuss splitting off from the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs the commonwealth’s high school sports.
Here’s the gist, from WHTM’s Logan Wilson:
William Hall, the superintendent of the Millcreek Township School District near Erie is leading the meeting. He says superintendents and athletic directors from the across the state will discuss separating public school and private school playoffs, specifically for football and basketball.
The PIAA says it cannot separate the two; the decision would have to be made by the Legislature.
“We’re not interested in segregating our private schools and we’re not interested in breaking the law,” PIAA associate director Melissa Mertz said. “We’re not interested in having those discussions unless the members of the General Assembly want to dictate something different. If they want to change that, by all means, we’ll follow what they say.”
Wilson goes on to explain that the PIAA has made recent changes to address issues of transfer and recruiting involving both public and private schools, creating a new committee to oversee those issues. The association began keeping a database to track student transfers.
At GoErie.com, Ed Palatella explains what the main conflict is:
At the center of the debate is a proposal for separate playoffs in football and girls and boys basketball to address what the public schools see as a competitive advantage for private and parochial schools.
The separate playoffs would be for “boundary” schools, or traditional public schools that must draw students from specific geographic regions, and “non-boundary” schools, or private, parochial and charter schools, whose students can come from anywhere in the state and even out of state.
In the state basketball championships in March, seven of the 12 titlists were non-boundary schools. Non-boundary schools won two of the six PIAA football championships in 2017.
A local example would be Archbishop Wood, the Warminster-area Catholic school that pummeled the tar out of Gateway, a Pittsburgh public school, 49-14 for the 2017 5A state title. It was Wood’s 5th state title in seven years. Perennial powerhouses like Imhotep and Saint Joe’s Prep are thrown into playoff brackets with Pottsgrove and Garnet Valley. Critics say the mix of public and private schools makes postseason competition lopsided and unfair.
Hall’s meeting will take place on July 24th in State College.
The PIAA has, to its credit, offered up some ideas to address the issue. Executive director Robert Lombardi gave his annual testimony to the state legislature in June and suggested the creation of a 7A “super class” in football and basketball.
This is connected to the “Competition Classification Formula” currently in the PIAA pipeline. Schools would be classified based on enrollment, a “success factor’’ and a metric based on the number of athletic transfers.
Former Class 6A schools that qualify under the formula would move up into the Super Class. Schools could also — and some would presumably have to — voluntarily opt in to the Super Class.
Lombardi’s testimony suggested a Super Class of eight schools in football and 16 both in boys and girls basketball.In theory, it could include Imhotep, a Class 4A charter school that has won seven state boys basketball titles since 2009 and reached the state final in football four times, winning it once
All of the above-mentioned schools are private, with the exception of Imhotep, a charter school. Many of them are in Philadelphia. The middle of the state — the portions outside the urban population centers — are very under-represented.What public schools might even be considered for the Super Class? Perhaps Reading in basketball or Wilson or Pine-Richland in football.
Whatever the solution, and this whole revamping is really just getting underway, it’ll be better than seeing the same teams trounce lesser competition year-in and year-out. That’s not to take anything away from elite programs like Wood, who deserve all of the credit in the world. Neutrals just want balance.
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