Gorman: Give Wash High a hand for taking this stand
By Kevin Gorman
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 10:15 p.m.
An hour before kickoff last Friday night, Mike Bosnic hadn't made up his mind.
A Washington County judge issued an injunction to the WPIAL-ruled and PIAA-upheld decision that Zach Blystone was ineligible after transferring from Charleroi to Washington with “athletic intent.”
Now Bosnic, the Wash High coach, had to decide whether or not to play the 6-foot-3, 280-pound junior lineman in an Interstate game at Brownsville.
The PIAA had warned Wash High that playing Blystone could have severe consequences, if the injunction was overturned: The Little Prexies would have to forfeit every game in which he played, and Blystone could also be jeopardizing eligibility for next season.
Blystone played on both sides of the ball in the 50-14 victory over Brownsville.
“It was a really tough decision,” said Bosnic, who discussed it with his coaches, players, members of the community and two attorneys. “I feel like I did the right thing for the kid, the right thing overall.”
This was about taking a stand against perceived bully tactics by the WPIAL and PIAA boards, about someone serving as an advocate for instead of an adversary against Blystone.
“He had been through so much,” Bosnic said. “I thought he deserved to play. There was an injunction, and I thought that I should obey that injunction.”
But, by doing so, Wash High disobeyed PIAA rules. Blystone received the public backing of the school board Monday at a meeting where Little Prexies players showed their support.
With the Interstate title on the line against Mt. Pleasant on Friday, this stand can be viewed as irresponsible. The conference championship could be vacated.
“Wash High has been made aware of the rules,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said, “and the consequences.”
Backing Blystone is a big risk, one that could hurt the Little Prexies in the long run. But it's an admirable move, given the selfishness permeating prep sports.
The PIAA transfer rule is not only complicated but, in many eyes, one that is outdated and overreaching.
“It's a risk,” Bosnic said, “but I think doing things for kids is really what's important. I always put the kids first.”
Sometimes, the greater the risk, the better the reward. Sometimes, it backfires. This one promises to come with a valuable lesson for Wash High, a team willing to risk it all by taking a stand together.
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