Jayhawk football to remain in Class AA
It is fair to say that nobody cares more about Jeannette football than Roy Hall.
Not the fans whose rabid support of their beloved Jayhawks rivals the support of any fan base for any local high school football program. But their love for the program does not measure up to Hall's.
The football program could be the last symbol of substantial strength in a district hit very hard by shrinking enrollment, a shrinking tax base and shrinking funding from the commonwealth.
The school board must love what the team symbolizes, but Hall's love is more — it is real — it comes from the depths of his soul.
Reclassification of Jeannette's historic WPIAL Class-AA football program to Class-A is in the best interest of the program, Hall believes.
The school board voted 5-4 against the move Monday night.
Board members Morrison Lewis, Dr. David Valerio, Bill Brasco, Patricia Caralli and board president Joseph Yorio voted against the change.
Board members Mark Gogolsky, Randy Highlands, Donna Highlands and Anita Mash voted in favor of the switch.
Jeannette Athletic Director Matt Lebe endorses the move, but his opinion is secondary.
So too is the opinion of Jeannette's assistant coaches — to a man loyal to Jeannette football.
Each agrees without hesitation that the best move for the future of Jeannette football is reclassification to single-A.
The man who believes it most, though, is Roy Hall.
“I give everything I can give to this program,” said Hall.
“I know how much Jeannette football means to the people around here and I know what it means to me. It is very, very special.”
Hall has noticed the toll declining roster numbers in both the high school and developmental programs has had on Jeannette football.
He set the wheels in motion more than a year ago to make the case for reclassification.
“It has been getting harder and harder to compete,” said Hall. “We never make excuses, but we are down on numbers and it isn't getting any better. Times have changed and they aren't changing back.”
Hall formalized his efforts before the start of the 2013 season when he marshaled support and wrote a formal letter to Jeannette's board of directors asking them to vote to approve reclassification.
“We wrote the letter before we lost a single game this season,” said Hall. “None of this is a reaction to anything; it has been a long time coming.”
Brasco disagrees and believes the push to move to Class A is reactionary.
“I feel like one bad season makes it a little tough for me to justify dropping down. I have been through this before,” Brasco said.
“We dropped from AA to A before and at that time it was probably a smart move. But I'm just not sure right now it's a good move.”
Randy Highlands said he voted in favor of the change because he knows the size of the classes and the kids who are making their way up to the high school level.
“Given our size and what size the kids are who are eligible to play, we need to be in the class we're supposed to be in,” Randy Highlands said. “If you don't like it after two years, you can change it back. Every two years you have a chance to change your classification.”
Caralli has spent time over the past few weeks talking to people throughout town and talking students and said no one gave her a strong reason to drop to Class A.
“Jeannette is a comeback town. We're small but mighty and that's always been our motto.
“We can stay in this group (Class AA) and be competitive. I just don't see the reason to drop down, that's like accepting defeat and we don't do that in Jeannette,” Caralli said.
Gogolsky voted in favor of the change but spoke out about the issue at Monday's meeting, voicing his frustration that issues regarding education in the school district don't seem to generate the same passion as issues surrounding the athletic programs.
“No one cares about education and that should be our top concern,” said Gogolsky.
“People have been beating us up all over town about dropping down.
“I can't get over how education gets pushed aside on this.
“It's ridiculous that everyone is so wound up about dropping down (to Class A).”
Dave Moio is a freelance writer.
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.