MECHANICSBURG - The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association voted Friday to keep the status quo for football, and that apparently clears the last hurdle for big changes at Altoona Area and Hollidaysburg Area high schools.
Pennsylvania's governing body for high school athletics decided to keep its enrollment classification system for football intact, its board voting 15-13 Friday morning in favor of retaining the current system of four classes. The PIAA voted down a proposal started by the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association that would have moved to a six-class system for football only and shortened the current 16-week season to 15 weeks.
The PSFCA's disappointment, however, was a big bright spot for the two largest schools in the Mirror coverage area. The vote apparently removed the final obstacle to Altoona and Hollidaysburg becoming members of the WPIAL (District 7) in football only beginning in 2010.
"I think it's a really exciting time for us. I think we'll reap a lof of benefits from joining the WPIAL,'' Altoona athletic director Phil Riccio said. "The WPIAL is a great fit for our football program.''
The WPIAL voted unanimously to bring in Altoona and Hollidaysburg after last season on two conditions. The first was that the PIAA approve the move and allow the two Blair County schools to compete in the District 7 playoffs, which was passed. The second was that the WPIAL reserved the right to revisit its acceptance of Altoona and Hollidaysburg if the number of classifications in football or the length of the season changed.
Riccio and Hollidaysburg AD Dean Rossi said they planned to contact WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley early next week to make sure all systems are still go.
"That's what they indicated to us,'' Rossi said of the conditions needing met. "Hopefully, everything will go right.''
Hollidaysburg had to schedule six road games for this fall because it didn't have enough Mountain Conference games to fill its schedule.
"I don't want to go through this again,'' Rossi said.
Meanwhile, PSFCA assistant executive director Jack Bailey was disappointed that the measure wasn't passed. He said the coaches association will continue to pursue the measure starting in 2010.
"We were pleased that the matter got pushed to the third reading. There were significant changes on the districts [voting] for the last reading,'' Bailey said. "We're a lot further along than we were the last time this came up in 2007.''
The current system will remain in place through the end of the 2011-2012 school year.