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PIAA competition committee to consider moving champions up in class

Chris Harlan
| Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 7:57 p.m.

Win consecutive WPIAL or state titles and the PIAA could move you into a higher classification.

It's a radical success-based system meant to improve competitive balance, and PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi presented the idea Wednesday while addressing school administrators at the WPIAL annual meeting in Green Tree. For now, the idea is merely a topic the new PIAA competition committee will consider, but Lombardi labeled it a worthwhile debate.

“When teams repeat — especially in football and basketball — people don't like it,” Lombardi said. “I think it's worth having the conversation. Where it goes, I'm not sure. But I'm really proud that the (PIAA) board would take it on and say let's take a look at it.”

The PIAA created the competition committee last month and tasked it with examining competitive balance issues, including the state's transfer rule and the way classifications are crafted. Lombardi on Wednesday discussed the often-criticized transfer policy, including a proposed 21-day ineligibility period for mid-season transfers, but insisted rewriting those rules isn't a cure-all.

“The transfer rule is just one piece,” Lombardi said. “There are a lot of things there that need to be discussed. Part of it is competitive balance and part of it is how we classify.”

The inspiration for the success-based reclassification idea was found in Indiana and other states. Like the PIAA, the Indiana High School Athletic Association has six football classifications and realigns every two years. But rather than strictly use enrollment numbers, the IHSAA has a success-based formula for the championship-winning teams.

“If you win a district, a regional or a state championship, you get so many points,” Lombardi said. “If you accumulate ‘X' number of points in two years, you move up in class. … Maybe Indiana is on to something.”

Lombardi mentioned that the Clairton football teams could have moved up in years past under the system. Clairton reached five consecutive state finals from 2008-12.

“California does something a little different,” Lombardi said. “They drill down to the league level and they use something like an ASA softball model that if you're really successful a couple of years in your league, then you have to go up a level.”

Among the other topics discussed:

• Week Zero, which allowed football teams to replace a preseason scrimmage with a regular-season game, will not expand to other sports.

“Soccer asked to start a week earlier, the same week we start heat acclimatization in football, and then play Week Zero,” Lombardi said. “The (PIAA) board said no. The board said Week Zero is a football issue only. Now, will that change? Who ever thought McDonalds would sell chicken and salads? Things do change.”

• The PIAA might expand track and field from two to three classifications, but the number of state qualifiers can't increase drastically.

“We can't handle another 1,300 athletes, so the expansion to 3,900 athletes in track and field is not going to happen,” Lombardi said. “However, there may be expansion to three classifications and a manipulation of how many athletes actually are coming. That's still on the board.”

Hearing for White

The WPIAL board of directors scheduled an eligibility hearing May 15 for Pine-Richland junior Kenny White, a football standout who transferred from West Allegheny.

West Allegheny administrators did not sign the transfer paperwork submitted to the WPIAL, and Pine-Richland “checked a box that gave indication to our board that there may be some athletics involved,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley.

Lacrosse changes

The WPIAL likely will revamp its lacrosse alignment for next season, O'Malley said, possibly reverting to a format that groups teams by program strength rather than enrollment. However, the WPIAL still must determine a Class AA and AAA champion for the state playoffs.

The PIAA expanded lacrosse to two classifications before this season, and the gap between the “haves and have-nots” has created a competitive imbalance, O'Malley said. The WPIAL has 43 girls teams and 40 boys teams.

Scholar-athletes

The WPIAL announced 20 scholars-athlete winners who'll each receive a $1,000 scholarship. The group will be honored at a luncheon May 15.

Penn Hills' Cole Bishop, Lincoln Park's Nelly Cummings, Armstrong's Zane Dudek, Mt. Lebanon's David Harvey, Kiski Area's Eric Kennedy, Quaker Valley's Amos Luptak, Freeport's Kevin Lynch, North Allegheny's Ethan Maenza, Woodland Hills' Michael McAllister and Monessen's Justice Rice were chosen from among 73 male nominees. Jefferson-Morgan's Erin Confortini, Mars' Taylor Hockenberry, Brentwood's Molly Huffman, Riverview's Erin Joyce, North Allegheny's Anna Li, Ellwood City's Taylor Petrak, Hempfield's Morgan Ryan, Brownsville's Alexandria Seto, Baldwin's Madison Sgattoni and Moon's Emma Thomas were picked from the 74 female nominees.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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