By Matthew DeGeorge
The atmosphere within Executive Room 12 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center was convivial if deliberative Wednesday afternoon. The tenor of debates circulating through the PIAA Executive Board struck a start contrast to the rhetoric espoused outside the organization’s highest rungs.
The board struck an optimistic tone as it passed several measures, including a postseason ban for late-high school transfers and the implementation of a competition formula starting in 2020-21, aimed at easing what Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi called the “perceived imbalance” between public and private schools. The view of another meeting to take place next week in State College, the “PIAA Playoff Equity Summit” that will bring together representatives from more than 100 public schools to thrash out a unified position to approach competitive imbalance, was decidedly dim.
“My comments are the same as at the oversight committee (in Harrisburg in June),” Lombardi said. “We believe it’s contrary to the law. And if the legislation wants to change, we will follow the legislation and do whatever it says. And the board has discussed it upside-down, inside-out, many different ways and proposals and ideas. But they’re not going to violate the intent of the law which is we’re going to take private schools as full members of PIAA.”
Legislators that have spoken to PAPrepLive.com, including State Sen. Scott Martin and State Rep. Robert Matzie, express the same sentiment. The PIAA incorporated private schools into a previously all-public body via a 1972 act of the General Assembly. Any board action to split the association or to conduct separate tournaments for public and private schools would, according to prevailing logic, violate the letter and/or spirit of that law and fail to withstand the subsequent and inevitable court challenges.
By Matthew DeGeorge
The rough triangle of Pennsylvania highways connecting the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center with the State Capitol and Pittsburgh’s Hill District takes about four hours to cover. But such was the importance of the story that State Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr. wanted to tell Wednesday that he was willing to endure the trek for just a few minutes on the floor.
The Democrat from the 19th District wanted to hear directly from the PIAA’s Board of Directors at its bimonthly meeting as to why this new layer of transfer restriction was so important. Why was it vital to include a postseason ban for the first season after an athlete has transferred from 10th grade and beyond? And before they made that choice, in the public comment section of the board meeting, did they grasp the burden that Wednesday’s action would impose on student-athletes, like those that had reached out to Wheatley?
“What’s behind the rule and who’s really going to be punished?,” Wheatley told The Daily Times and PaPrepLive.com. “I think it’s children of color and children who are going to be locked into bad schools in their districts. You’re putting another hurdle that kids have to jump through.”
Through the unique window of his constituency, Wheatley broaches a salient balance in the negotiations undertaken by the PIAA, both Wednesday and at large: How to weigh the rights of individual student-athletes with the imperative of competitive equity?
By Matt DeGeorge
Dr. Robert Lombardi will from time to time talk with his hands, and in situations like Wednesday, the gesticulations proved extremely illustrative.In the hallway at the Penn Stater, the executive director of the PIAA used the airspace around him to map what had transpired in the last weeks and months with a special competition committee impaneled to discuss how to ease the PIAA’s competitive imbalance issue.
First, that committee recommended that the PIAA ban from postseason play any athlete transferring after the natural break from high school. Then the pendulum swung — like Lombardi’s hands in the retelling — to allow underclassmen to transfer and bar only transfers after the junior year. Finally, as Lombardi takes a shuffle-step to return to the middle ground from where he fielded the question, the end result upon consultation with districts was a compromise that is the new transfer law of the land, decreed Wednesday at the PIAA’s bimonthly board meeting.
That spirit of animated debate and ultimate compromise characterized a lengthy process that all parties in attendance Wednesday hope will ameliorate some of the PIAA’s competition balance issues. It’s not yet the perfect solution, should that white whale exist. But it’s a step forward.
By Matt DeGeorge
When John Sarandrea said yes a year ago, he didn’t know how much weight was behind the question.
The WPIAL needed a new superintendent’s representative to its board, and Sarandrea, a former basketball coach now heading the New Castle Area School District, thought he was up to the task.
Soon into that endeavor, the role’s main task was explained: Superintendents wanted to delve into competitive balance in the PIAA. Would Sarandrea take the lead in canvassing District 7’s administrators?
That inquest led to the “PIAA Playoff Equity Summit” next Tuesday in State College, open to public-school administrators to ascertain how to rectify competitive imbalance that has led to an overwhelming proportion of PIAA championships won by private and charter (so-called “non-boundary”) schools. Topics on the agenda, like separate championships and even a possible secession from the PIAA, were once regarded as third rails in this conversation, but they’ve gained traction as animosity has mounted.
By Matthew DeGeorge
Scott Martin was a state championship wrestler at Lancaster Catholic. He was an instant standout on the football field at Millersville on the way to two All-American selections and an NFL training camp stint.
But when he returned home from his freshman year of college, none of those accolades prevented him from serving as a church handyman at his alma mater, fulfilling the number of hours needed to pay off grants to attend Lancaster Catholic. As the sixth of seven children to earn a Catholic education, from a blue-collar family as the son of a police officer, Martin understood the need to work for his opportunities.
“When I went through, I didn’t get scholarships,” Martin said by phone recently. “I got loans. I had to work them off, literally. I had to go back after I finished school because I still owed them a certain number of hours and I washed windows over the summer.”
The work ethic plays a part in how Martin, a Republican State Senator in the 13th District serving Lancaster County, ascended to such heights, athletically and professionally. It also sculpts his position on the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee (PAOC), a six-member body in the General Assembly that guides the PIAA’s operations.
By Ed Palattella
Superintendents, other officials to hold statewide meeting to discuss “the possible formation of a separate entity” to oversee high school sports in Pennsylvania.
The call for separate playoffs for some high school sports in Pennsylvania has taken on another dimension — the possibility of replacing the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Superintendents and other officials from at least 75 public school districts from across the state are scheduled to meet in State College on July 24 to discuss “the current inequity” in the playoff system, which the PIAA now operates, according to an email that schools received on Tuesday about the meeting.
Another potential topic of discussion, according to the email, is “the possible formation of a separate entity to provide a fair, equitable playing field for all students and schools in Pennsylvania if appropriate action is not taken by either the PIAA or through legislation.”
By Havenfootball.net Staff
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