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High school football notebook: PIAA committees recommend move to 6 classifications

| Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, 8:36 p.m.

Call it a Pick Six.

After nine months of debate, the PIAA football steering and strategic planning committees voted Wednesday to recommend expanding the sport from four classifications to six. The PIAA Board of Directors may act on that recommendation in October and expand in 2016.

“This is something that started last December,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. “It has been pretty well vetted, and I think this is what the member schools want.”

The recommended plan would divide the state's football teams into six evenly divided classifications. The PIAA strategic planning committee voted 9-6 in favor, and the football committee voted 9-3.

The WPIAL remains strongly opposed. Among its concerns are that adding classifications would negatively impact long-standing rivalries and the WPIAL's ability to maintain geographically friendly conferences, executive director Tim O'Malley said.

Expansion also could impact the use of Heinz Field for all WPIAL football championship games.

“For those reasons, we were opposed to it,” O'Malley said. “We'll just have to wait and see what happens.”

Expansion talk started last winter after District 9 football chairman Bob Tonkin presented a detailed plan for expansion. In the months since, the football committee crafted eight separate proposals and now narrowed that list to one.

The PIAA Board of Directors meets Oct. 7.

“They can pass it, they could take no action, they could refer it to December, they could table it,” Lombardi said. “I'm not sure what they're going to do, but I would think … the rest of the board would follow along (with the strategic planning committee).”

Expanded expansion?

Football might not be the only sport to expand. Boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball also could increase to six classifications.

The PIAA strategic planning committee approved a motion Wednesday recommending that the board of directors also expand those four sports “and review any other sport that may have merit for expansion,” Lombardi said.

Those expansions also could occur in the 2016-17 school year, he said.

“We think there's time,” Lombardi said.

The WPIAL administration would prefer expansion be delayed until the following two-year enrollment cycle that starts with 2018-19.

“I don't think it's timely for the next cycle,” O'Malley said. “Two years to let people adjust and adapt would be advisable from our perspective.”

Multiple choice

Bethel Park senior Jake Dixon, a three-sport standout, committed to play volleyball at Lewis University. Dixon, a tight end in football, was the WPIAL Class AAA co-player of the year in volleyball last season. He also plays basketball. Lewis, in Romeoville, Ill., was the NCAA Division I runner-up in May.

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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