It’s time to level the playing field for school athletes

Posted on March 11, 2019 in Contributor, Homepage.

By Rep. Scott Conklin

Since 2010, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) has been debating the question as to whether private, parochial and charter schools (non-boundary schools) have a competitive advantage over public schools (boundary schools).

Since fair competition is something we all want, I believe our public school student- athletes should have the same opportunities for statewide exposure, college recruitment and scholarships as those enrolled in parochial, private and charter schools. Also, when it comes to contact sports, parents should know their children are safe rather than worrying about the non-boundary schools that are fielding teams with college-level size and athleticism. That is why I’m introducing legislation to give the PIAA the authority to establish separate playoff systems. My goal is not to harm the Catholic Church, private schools, religious-affiliated schools or charter schools; it’s to level the playing field.

On July 24, 2018, more than 150 public school administrators met in State College to discuss both reforms and withdrawing from the PIAA. Why, you ask? Because, boundary schools are of the opinion that non-boundary schools have a major advantage because they can offer student athletes academic scholarships. While it may not be recruiting per se, oftentimes these students happen to be five-star athletes inmajor sports such as football or basketball. Ironically, some happen to be 6-foot, 8-inch, 250-pound centers with multiple offers from high-profile Division I basketball programs. While non-boundary school athletes are getting full scholarships to top-tier colleges due to the exposure and success of their school’s athletic programs, boundary school athletes are left with few opportunities.

On December 5, 2018, the PIAA Board of Directors stated that separation of playoffs was contrary to the legislative intent of Act 219 of 1972, the law that opened up membership to the PIAA to non-public schools. To assume that the legislative intent of a nearly 47-year-old law applies to today’s issue is both shortsighted and irresponsible.

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