WPIAL coaches, quarterbacks have concerns about using newly approved footballs

Paul Schofield
| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:10 p.m.

South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh tossed around a lot of different footballs this summer — the Nike, the Wilson GST and the Spalding SB1.

But if he wants to lead his team to a second consecutive state Class AA title, then the senior must get used to the new Rawlings football adopted by the PIAA.

“We had to adjust to the Wilson for the PIAA playoffs last year,” Brumbaugh said. “Let's hope we have to adjust to the Rawlings. You can't let using a different football get into your head.”

The high school football season begins Friday across the state, and depending district, teams will use a different ball than the WPIAL once the playoffs begin.

The PIAA officially adopted the Rawlings Pro 5 on July 1 as the official football when district and state playoffs begin. The contract runs until 2018.

Teams in the state can use any National Federation of State High School Associations (or NFHS) approved ball during the regular season but must switch to the Rawlings for the PIAA playoffs. Rawlings outbid seven other potential candidates for the statewide contract.

“I like the Wilson GST,” Brumbaugh said. “It's easier to throw, and I like the laces.”

Because of an existing contract with Spalding, WPIAL teams, however, must use the Spalding SB1 during the WPIAL playoffs before switching to the Rawlings in the state playoffs. The WPIAL contract with Spalding runs out in 2017.

In previous seasons, the PIAA used the Wilson GST during the playoffs and, according to many quarterbacks and coaches, the Wilson is the preferred ball.

“Of all the proposals, the committee felt the Rawlings was our best choice,” PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi said. “Our selection encompassed numerous things. We look at the overall product, service provided and dollars and cents.

“Any school that had a concern about the football this summer got a response from the Rawlings representative, Greg Bialis. He tried to solve most of the problems.”

Many coaches said the Rawlings ball is too bulky and not as durable as the Wilson. It is a half-inch larger around the center than the Wilson GST and a quarter-inch larger than the Spalding SB1.

“There isn't a thing I like about the ball,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “If you have a quarterback with big hands, and I do, it's OK.”

Ligonier Valley, which plays in District 6, has opted to use the Rawlings ball during the regular season.

“If you get it wet, everything turns pink,” Beitel said. “It's not durable. We have one that can't hold air after a couple practices. A school our size (Class AA), we can't afford to bring out four new footballs for every game. The Wilson GST has more longevity.”

While many teams in the WPIAL will use the Wilson ball during the regular season, coaches such as Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane, South Fayette coach Joe Rossi and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl said they are playing with the Spalding to get ready for the WPIAL playoffs.

“The Rawlings ball is larger? Good thing Brett has large hands,” Rossi said. “I know my quarterbacks in the past liked the Wilson because it's passer friendly. The Spalding doesn't hold up as good.”

WPIAL Executive Director Tim O'Malley said Spalding has addressed the concerns of area coaches over the years.

“The ball is very similar to the Wilson now,” O'Malley said. “They've changed the color and made the laces higher. We haven't had many complaints recently.”

Hempfield quarterback Dan Walters said he has thrown the Wilson and the Spalding and prefers the Wilson.

“It's easier to throw,” Walters said of the Wilson. “The Spalding has an odd shape.”

Greensburg Central Catholic coach Dan Mahoney said none of the recent quarterbacks at the school — Trent Hurley, Chase Keller, Adam Palcic and Cody Catalina — liked the Spalding.

“They felt it was thicker in the middle and slippery,” Mahoney said.

Kiski Area quarterback Chad Kuhn said he too prefers the Wilson. He said has thrown the Wilson and Spalding balls, but not the Rawlings.

“We use the Wilson GST,” Kuhn said. “I don't think any teams in our conference (Quad East) are using it.”

When told that the Rawlings would be used in the state playoffs, Kuhn said: “Hopefully, Kiski Area will be using it then.”

Lombardi compared the switch to a similar situation the PIAA recently went through with soccer.

“Sometimes people complain about change,” Lombardi said. “When we switched from the Brine soccer ball to the Select ball, we got complaints. When we went back to the Brine, we got complaints. We'll see how it is two years from now.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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