PIAA playing field needs to be level

Imagine if our beloved Steelers played in a league in which 95 percent of the teams were limited to a geographic region for finding players and the other 5 percent of teams had no such restrictions.

Those teams could receive talent from anywhere — even the areas in which the 95 percent of teams were limited.

It would be no surprise if the 5 percent teams would win nearly three quarters of the championships.

Obviously, the NFL would never think of allowing such inequitable and unjust rules.

However, for our student- athletes in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), this one-sided system is a harsh reality.

Evidence of the competitive imbalance is as manifest as it is alarming.

In the past seven years, 73 percent of boys basketball champions have been non-boundary schools. During the same time frame, 60 percent of girls basketball champions and 56 percent of state football champions have similarly come from non-boundary schools, a group that represents only 5 percent of PIAA schools.

Nearly every team and individual sport has similarly skewed figures.

Recently, New Castle Area Superintendent John Sarandrea organized a survey that was sent to all schools in the WPIAL, the largest district in the PIAA. Not surprisingly, 86 percent of the schools favored the idea of separate championships for boundary and non-boundary schools, a system similar to most regional states, including New Jersey.

At a hearing of the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee at the State Capital on Monday, PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi unveiled a plan to restrict transfers.

Let’s be clear: Transfers are not the problem. Metaphorically, it would be like going to the emergency room with a heart attack and having the physician treat you for a head cold.

Lombardi claims that the PIAA cannot require separate championships without a legislative change, specifically to Act 219 of 1972, the law that allowed private schools to participate in the PIAA.

However, there is no such language in that piece of legislation that would prohibit the PIAA from utilizing its broad administrative discretion to make the necessary change.

By refusing to survey all members of the PIAA on the issue, claiming the problem is about transfers, and punting the issue to the General Assembly, Lombardi is doing what is safe.

Great leadership, however, is not about political expediency. It is about doing what is right and advocating for our children.

As educators, we try to motivate our students with the mantra that hard work is always rewarded. However, that notion is clearly diminished when our student-athletes see the blatantly lopsided condition of the PIAA playoff system.

Fortunately, in District 6, we have Richland Superintendent Arnie Nadonley and Portage Area Superintendent Eric Zelanko leading the charge for fairness.

Please support their efforts by contacting your state senator, state representative, or members of the Athletic Oversight Committee.

During the June 18 meeting, the committee heard testimony from the Pennsylvania Catholic Commission and from charter school representatives.

The voices of public schools and our student-athletes need to be heard.

Jason S. Moore

Superintendent

Central Cambria School District

Ebensburg

Question of week

Do you favor separate PIAA playoffs for public and private schools?

Responses should be emailed to sundaybag@altoonamirror.com, faxed to 946-7540 or mailed to Voice of the Fan, P.O. Box 2008, Altoona, Pa. 16603. Letters should be kept to 150-200 words.

The Mirror reserves the right to edit for length, clarity and fairness.

Full names and addresses must be included with all mail.

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