Lots of going on today after a bothersome drive up to State College in the rain.

Talking about the pending competitive cheer championship, but there is a LOT more coming after this.

The proposal to change the format of the PIAA volleyball championships from pool play at the quarterfinal level to straight, single-elimination bracket play has been tabled until the May meeting.

The Board will be addressing a heat-acclimation period before the start of preseason football practice. The item was supposed to come up on Thursday, but the Thursday session was abbreviated for a reception for outgoing executive director Brad Cashman. Friday’s session was taken up entirely by the interviews and voting for the new executive director.

The heat-acclimation proposal, which came out of the sports medicine advisory committee, is for a 5-day period during which only helmets may b worn and no actual on-field practice or position instruction can occur.

That will come up later in the meeting.

Actually, the heat acclimation proposal is coming up right now.

Immediately, District 7 and District 3 oppose the proposal, essentially saying that the 5-day period is unnecessary because players use helmets and shouldr pads all summer during workouts, as per recent PIAA rules changes.

In addition, the athletic directors association was unhappy to have this put in front of the board for immediate action. There’s a lot to discuss here.

The discussion now is whether to table the proposal or to send it back to sports medicine with some of the concerns of this propoal: the timing, the expense to schools (paid coaches would necessarily run the acclimation period), etc. Also, District 3 chairman Sam Elias said there are other options, such as limiting the number of practices per day, or having the first three days of practice without pads.

Sam Elias says this a great idea, but it needs to tweaked within the context of what schools do and what schools need.

The proposal will be referred back to sports medicine for further discussion and review. Not sure when it will return to the Board, but if it does not come back up in May it will be impossible to implement for this season.

Next up is the second reading of qualifiers and pairings for PIAA Championships for the next two-year cycle.

This could be interesting.

District 7 has raised a concern that in basketball, many first-round games match representatives of the same district (example: 7-1 vs. 7-5 in the opening round of basketball). Brad Cashman explains that PIAA has been trying to pair the tournament with geography in mind to reduce travel costs and lost school time.

District 10 chairman Wally Blucas has just blasted the east-west crossover games, saying that the travel is ridiculous on a school night. Needless to say, he’s pointing to this past Wednesday’s AAAA boys basketball semifinal between Cathedral Prep and Lower Merion that was played at Bald Eagle Area near State College. The schools were traveled 414 and 390 miles round-trip on a school night. Both teams returned home very late.

But in the end, he is making a back-door argument to bring back pure East-West brackets. PIAA president Rod Stone points out that the east-west ship has sailed, especially in Class AAAA where 144 AAAA schools are in the east and just 40 are in the west.

The falls sports brackets and qualifiers were approved on a second-reading basis.

Regional wrestling is up now. District 12 is not pleased with its proposed move to the Northeast Region in Bethlehem, with support from District 1, which will lose a PIAA qualifier should D-12 leave the Southeast Region.

Here comes the Middletown upgrade argument. Brad Cashman is pointing out that several schools, including Middletown in wrestling, requested late upgrades in classification. Those upgrades, though late, are approved by PIAA if the district committee approves the upgrade.

Stone said he doesn’t understand why districts approve such requests after the deadline. Brad responds that it has always been done administratively.

Some arguing over the basketball brackets was short-circuited by a suggestion by School Boards rep Eric Wolfgang to let the process play out, pass the qualifiers and pairings on a second-reading basis, and allow the winter sports steering committees, which meet on Thursday, to hash out any problems, then return their recommendations to the Board in May.

And that’s what happens. Winter sports pairings pass, with District 1 objecting, on a second-reading basis. That means the fur will fly on Thursday the PIAA office, both in basketball and wrestling. I’ll be there.

Spring sports qualifiers and pairings pass without a word. When are we going to have a big fight over a spring sport?

Discussion now on PIAA by-law amendments. Now discussing third and final reading on the definition of public and private schools.

You’ll recall that PIAA has tried to define the definition of public schools by call them “boundary schools.” Private schools were called “non-boundary schools”. Charter schools and cyber schools were essentially defined as private schools even though they are public school creations.

There have been months of discussion on this, and the definitions have been revised several times.

That’s all moot now. By a unanimous vote, the Board decided to drop the definitions in favor of a committee to continue studying the issue. In other words, the long-standing status quo remains the status quo on the public-private issue.

Meeting is wrapping up. I’m heading over to Bryce Jordan Center where I’ll provide frequent updates on the Steel-High vs. North Catholic Class A girls championship. Might do a chat, might just update (looks like I’ll be writing a story for the Patriot-News; unfortunately, Andy Shay had car trouble en route to State College.)

I’m out. Thanks.

  20 Responses to “PIAA BOD meeting (Saturday)”

  1. The concerns that D12 schools must travel across D1 great distances to Bethlehem Liberty for regionals is disingenuous (i.e. B.S.). Schools from other districts travel farther-often much farther -to regionals. A quick comparison: Olney High will need to travel from Duncannon St, Phila 1hr 18min to Liberty; but in D3 Susquenita travels from Duncannon, Pa 1 hr 20min to Wilson West Lawn for SE-AA regional. And James Buchanan (admittedly going to AAA next year) has been traveling 2hr 20min to Wilson. Unlike D1 schools, schools in other districts often travel “overnight” distances for districts, even regionals.

    I suppose I could be wrong if someone can convince me that Phila Public Schools travel to regionals only by SEPTA. – More likely they travel by Van, or Mini Van, or Car.

    OK, hotel expenses can be a problem for those public schools. That problem could be resolved by a small addendum to a PIAA regulation that would allow an expense supplement for “officially distressed schools”.

  2. More time to study the public vs private issue? Really…how much more evidence does the PIAA need to see that the system is terribly flawed. Will Bob Lombardi have the courage to lead the PIAA into a new era?

  3. Bob, as numerous scribes — myself included, and Rod, I believe — have reported over the years, the PIAA is hamstrung by a Commonwealth Court decision from the 1970s that forced acceptance of the parochial schools. The interpretation how to integrate is the issue, and at this point, I can’t picture the PIAA making a significant change on its own for fear of a lawsuit (they did change the way co-ops are counted this year, which is a small concession to the obvious fact there’s a disparity).

    When it comes right down to it — and this is just my opinion — a lawsuit is the answer. If a public school family can demonstrate discrimination, and thus harm, from the PIAA policy, then a court will order the PIAA to come up with a new scheme. Until then, don’t hold your breath.

  4. Jeff,
    I understand the history, but the Charter Schools were NOT part of the original legislation and shouldn’t be included in the argument. The system is flawed to its core at this point and its stunning, truly stunning, that the educated leaders of the PIAA haven’t been able to figure out a way to level the playing fields. I don’t buy the lawsuit theory either, other states including Texas, Illinois and New Jersey all have separate tournaments. Any good lawyer could use these as examples to back the argument to separate the boundary and non boundaries in our state.

  5. Bob,

    The fact that there were no charter schools in the 1970s is irrelevant. They can claim to be public schools because they receive public funding. Or if they are deemed to be private schools, they retain the same rights granted private schools under the Commonwealth Court decision.

    What they do in other states is irrelevant, unless Pennsylvania falls under the jurisdiction of those states’ governments and courts. OUR court said, “Do it this way.” That’s now the law, like it or not (and for the record, I don’t).

    The legislature is no more likely to produce a court-acceptable solution than they are to give us all free trips to Disneyland. Twice in the past 10 years in school districts where I’ve worked as a reporter the legislature has only made it worse — granting eligibility to non-enrollees in the wake of a case against the Midd-West School District, and the Corman amendment that potentially opened the door for a slew of athletic transfers, a favor to a small crowd in Juniata County when the school district there dropped all funding for athletics.

    And you confuse me when you say you disagree with my lawsuit theory, only to close by explaining how a lawyer would argue it. Is that lawyer going to stand in the street and argue? Outside of a courtroom, it’s meaningless. And any PIAA lawyer that offers that argument is going to just as quickly argue the other side for the board’s benefit.

  6. My point is that the PIAA refusal to look for a solution using the “we will be sued” excuse is just that an excuse. If they truly wanted to find a way to resolve this they would. Philly schools have open enrollment, Charter Schools bring in kids from entire cities and Catholic Schools have kids transfer in all of the time. The rules from the 1970’s no longer fit.

  7. Well, plenty of good back and forth here between Bob and Jeff, and I appreciate it. I’ll let both of you continue to make you points, but I’ll throw in mine.

    First, I am adamantly opposed to separate state championships for public and private schools, even if there’s a unification state championship contest (which I would actually find anticlimatic, not exciting).

    The reason is not a love of Catholic, private and charter schools. I’m a public school guy who barely even knew private schools existed when I was going to Clearfield in the mid 1970s. And have no doubt that I recognize the imbalance at work here and would love to see a solution.

    But the reason there hasn’t been a solution isn’t because PIAA has refused to address it, as Bob has claimed, it’s because the solution is so vexing. Let’s go back to the separate state championships argument. Other states do it (Maryland, for example, does not even permit private schools in its organization, let alone include them in the organization’s championships), but is that right?

    As a matter of philosophy, I believe it is not right at all. In most, but not all cases, Pennsylvania’s private school students are the children of Pennsylvania taxpayers who, as evidenced by their decision to send their children to private school, involuntarily support the state’s public school system. Should their children be denied the opportunity to participate in state championships as a result? Some believe that decision results in forfeiture of that opportunity; I believe strongly that it does not, and the Legislature has agreed on that point.

    This matter is not exactly Plessy v Ferguson, but I do not believe in a “separate but equal” argument for anything except men’s and women’s restrooms.

    Also, remember that about five or six years ago, the PIAA Board made a very serious attempt to enact harsh transfer and eligibility rules that essentially would have made anybody transferring from one high school to another after their freshman year athletically ineligible for a year (there were some nuances, but I’ll skip them for simplicity’s sake). That proposal reached its third and final reading when the Catholic Conference literally at the last minute and threatened legislative action (the Catholic Conference is essentially the lobbying and litigation arm of the dioceses that serve Pennsylvania’s Catholics).

    That was enough for the Board to scrap that approach; the PIAA lives in great fear of legislative action and potential litigation. Since then, then PIAA has moved much more cautiously on the issue; Saturday’s decision to drop definitions of public and private schools is further evidence of that.

    PIAA has rejected other solutions such as a multiplier (counting a private school student as 1.35 the value of a public school like they do in Missouri, and where they’re running into huge problems with that method) and simply moving all private schools up one or more classifications (which would definitely result in litigation or legislative action). Again, PIAA fears the very organization could be threatened if it takes those steps … and it’s right.

    As more private schools become more aggressive in the Bethlehem Catholic wrestling mode – seriously, who is going to beat Beca in AA in the near future? – this will annoy people. But being annoyed is one thing; denying students opportunity is another. As much as I acknowledge discomfort with the current set-up, it’s better than the alternatives.

  8. Rod, cold you detail the problems Missouri is having with the 1.35 multiplier. It seems reasonable to me, I have suggested something like 1.5 in the past.

  9. Rod, If Private and Public schools both hold state title tournaments, how can anybody claim being denied the opportunity to compete?

  10. They’re not competing for the same thing. Like I said, it’s the old “separate but equal” argument. One group is competing for one state title, the other for another. I know some people are fine with that, but I don’t like it at all, especially when all of the schools are members of the same organization. In my mind, it’s not really a state championship. It’s a public school tournament and a private school tournament and there is no state champion.

  11. Rich,

    There have been two problems with multipliers. Missouri (which has a similar legislative mandate as Pa. for private schools belonging to the state association) has used the 1.35 multiplier for private-school students since 2002. Before 2002, private schools had won about 33 percent of Missouri state championships. Since the multiplier has been put into place, private schools have won about 32 percent, with virtually the same schools winning titles in the same sports.

    In other words, the multiplier made everyone feel good 10 years ago, but nothing really changed.

    In addition a multiplier is always subject to litigation. All it will take is one student at one school that has been moved up in classification, and an aggressive parent could bring an equal protection suit. Might not win it, but it could happen.

    The problem with using a multiplier is that a state association is saying, in essence, that a private school athlete is 35 percent better than his public counterpart. That’s ridiculous on the face of it and not at all quantifiable; there’s a lawsuit hiding in that idea, too.

    The real problem is that PIAA has not fully attacked private school drawing areas. When private schools can simply accept students from 100 miles away, as Trinity did with wrestler Ryan Diehl, and be completely within PIAA’s transfer and eligibility rules, there’s a problem. Do I know that answer to the drawing area issue? Wish I did. But I do know I thoroughly disagree with the discriminatory nature of the multiplier.

  12. I would guess that there are more prvate schools now than 10 years ago, which would explain the little change n results. But then GUESS is the operative word.

    I don’t interpret the 1.35 rule as saying pivate schools kids as being 35% better. It is the very real fact that everyone who is at a private school either wants to be there, or has “parents” who want them to be there. But my feeling is about 25% of kids at public schools lack both there own, and parental, desire to be in school. (unfortuneatly that number of 25% vaies wildly, from maybe 1% at Camp Hill or Hershey to over 50% at Chester. (Ok those numbers may be a littlle, maybe more like 10-15% at the median public school and 20-30% at Chester.– However for an equal number sports, and most other activities are either forbidden or impossible..

  13. Rich,

    Re the 1.35 multiplier: You and I might not think or interpret that such a multiplier means a private school athlete is 35 percent better than a public school athlete, but that is the net effect. Possibly it’s more accurate to say that the private school athlete is 35 percent more valuable than the equivalent public school athlete, which is also not quantifiable. That same athlete, had he and his parents decided to keep him in public school, would be counted differently in public school than he is at the private school.

    Sorry, but I just don’t buy that, either logically or philosophically. That’s saying the difference in the athlete is the school he attends, not in the athlete’s ability.

    Again, to me the core problem is ill-defined or undefined drawing areas. Of course, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s open enrollment policy and the fact that schools like La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep (which are not Diocesan schools) that happily and easily draw Jersey kids make the drawing area issue problematic as well.

    Like I said, it’s vexing.

  14. By the way, I do not know if there are more private schools in Missouri now than 10 years ago. But there are more private schools in PIAA now than there was 10 years ago, and they are making their presence felt rather significantly, eh?

  15. I don’t agree with the mulitiplier. It simply pushes the problem to another classification.

  16. Perhaps another classification is the solution, though — not an automatic push, nor a multiplier, but simply making private schools subject to the SAME RULES AS PUBLIC SCHOOLS. In other words, equal treatment, which the public schools don’t receive now.

    My longtime example is less relevant since Lourdes Regional dropped football and the TVL is bringing it back, but the theory still applies. Lourdes and East Juniata played in the same football conference for many years. They both had players from multiple school districts, but were NOT treated equally by the PIAA.

    East Juniata signed a cooperative agreement with nearby Midd-West, which has no football. Before one student arrived to play at EJ, EJ’s class goes from A to AAA (actually, the first year of the deal, three kids from M-W pushed EJ to AAAA).

    Lourdes draws students from Shamokin (AA), Shikellamy (AAA), Mount Carmel (AA) etc. Yet it remains in Class A because those students are suddenly not part of the school district that contributed them to the team.

    This is fair? I think not. And this is the basis that could be used for a lawsuit against the PIAA which would force a change, because even the old Commonwealth Court decision did not require the agency to discriminate against public school students — as it clearly does in cases like this.

  17. Jeff,
    Your coop example is another way that public schools get discriminated against. The question who takes the ball and runs with it?

  18. Bob, this goes back to what I said above, and have said in several newspaper columns, and more than a few lively discussions: The only person who can change this is the person willing and able to hire a lawyer, take the PIAA to court and prove that its interpretation of the old court decision is wrongful.

    As Rod, and I, and others, have said, there is no way the PIAA is going to change course on its own — why should it? There is no pressure other than grouchy public school folks and people like us complaining about it. Change means the risk of a lawsuit, from a powerful and well-funded constituency.

    Some folks from my part of the state, led by Lewistown (now Mifflin County) girls basketball coach Kevin Kodish, tried to persuade the legislature to rewrite the school code to give the PIAA an out on the court decision. But as much as I like and respect Kevin, I told him at the time: “You don’t need a legislator, you need a lawyer.”

    I’ll keep saying it. But until someone with standing — that is, someone potentially harmed by the rules — gets that lawyer and heads to court, there will be no change.

    And anyone who thinks the legislature is going to be helpful only needs to look at the previous actions it has taken and the impact or potential impact those actions have had on all of us to know there is no solution to be found in Harrisburg.

  19. Jeff,
    You have a public email? I have a radio show that i would love to have you on if you are interested?

  20. Bob, my work email is jfishbein@lewistownsentinel.com. Let’s get it on!

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