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Central Cambria letter seeks separate leagues

Board urges PIAA to split public, private school championships

By Sean Sauro

ssauro@altoonamirror.com

EBENSBURG — Hoping to improve the competitive chances of its sports teams, Central Cambria School Board members voted Monday to send a letter to PIAA officials urging them to consider separate leagues for public and private schools.

“Private schools’ competitive athletic advantage over boundary-bound public schools places our district’s children at a disadvantage on the athletic field,” reads the letter signed by school board member Thomas Woods, who chairs the district’s athletic committee.

Because public schools are “boundary-bound,” students on their sports teams must live within district borders.

However, private schools are not limited to those boundaries, and students “can travel great distances” to attend the schools, board member Dennis Simmers said.

That is a problem because private schools with good athletic programs often draw top athletes away from public schools, Simmers said.

A concentration of top athletes on private schools’ teams gives them an advantage during competition, he said.

This theory is supported by AAA boys and girls basketball results from 2013 to 2016, according to the letter. More often, private teams made it to championship competition than public schools, the letter reads.

“When you consider the total number of AAA public schools in Pennsylvania versus the total number of private schools … a significantly disproportionate number of private schools appear in the final 32 teams entering the championship series,” the letter reads.

“As the teams move forward in the playoffs, the disproportion grows exponentially, resulting in some cases with an all-private-school final four,” it continues.

To fix this issue, Central Cambria leaders are suggesting separate championships for public and private school teams — a matter that could be considered by the PIAA’s new competition committee.

In March, the PIAA Board of Directors agreed to establish the committee, which will review competition, including classifications, transfers, school definitions and competitive balance.

Central Cambria board members’ letter asks for rule changes that would allow the separation of private and public schools and requests that concerns be forwarded to the PIAA’s leadership and oversight committee, which is comprised of state lawmakers.

“We are concerned that swift, meaningful action will not be forthcoming,” the letter reads. “While public schools remain embroiled in a competitive quagmire, the PIAA has been unresponsive and unreceptive to our pleas.”

Providing some clarification, Simmers said district officials would like to see separate championship series, with the possibility of continued regular-season competition between public and private schools.

Board members in attendance voted unanimously at a Monday night meeting to send the letter to PIAA officials.

Simmers said he’s skeptical that it will produce desired results.

“It is a subject that has been discussed for years and years,” he said, adding there has not yet been a “meaningful resolution.”

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.

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