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High School Sports

PIAA considers shortening football season

| Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006

The PIAA football steering committee will meet Dec. 20 to consider a proposal to cut the season from 16 to 14 weeks.

Sentiment for a shorter season has spread across Pennsylvania, with the football season stretching through the PIAA title games Friday and Saturday -- two weeks after the first basketball games.

Jeannette's entire football team plays basketball. Thomas Jefferson and Clairton had the same issue before they were eliminated in the state semifinals last Saturday.

"The complaints are coming from the schools who go deep into the playoffs," PIAA executive director Brad Cashman told the Associated Press. "Right now, (the current system) impacts basketball and wrestling, and to some extent, swimming and diving."

WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said he was unaware of the proposal before he was contacted Wednesday night, but he said cutting the season could have an effect on the playoffs.

"I don't know how they would do it," O'Malley said. "If you take the regular season and give us seven weeks, it would have a drastic effect. Right now, we take four teams from each conference to the playoffs. Now we have 48 teams to start the playoffs and if we deny them that opportunity, it would have a tremendously negative effect on us."

O'Malley mentioned that if the playoff pool was minimized to two teams from each conference, Jeannette would not be competing for a state title because it finished third in the Class AA Interstate Conference.

Jeannette football coach Ray Reitz, who is a former a junior varsity basketball coach, said that he doesn't have any problems with a 16-week football season.

"The basketball coaches should look in the mirror," Reitz said. "Then, why don't we make each sport four months long• The basketball guys would cry."

Reitz is an advocate of his football players playing multiple sports, and at a small school such as Jeannette, coaches must share their athletes. On Sunday, the day after the PIAA championship game, the Jeannette basketball team will fly to Florida for a tournament.

In the midst of a memorable run to claim the school's first state title, Reitz believes his players should enjoy the moment and not be caught up in the basketball/football conflict.

"There's only two teams from the WPIAL (with the conflict)," Reitz said. "How are you going to punish everyone for two teams• It's not going to be the same teams every year."

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