Over­sight com­mit­tee urges re­ex­am­i­na­tion of 1972 PIAA law

The Phoenix - - SPORTS - By Matt DeGe­orge mde­ge­orge@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

The Penn­syl­va­nia high school ath­letic ed­i­fice rests ten­u­ously on 17 words cob­bled to­gether 46 years ago. The mo­ti­va­tions be­hind those words are about to get a closer dis­sec­tion.

Among the topics dis­cussed at Wed­nes­day’s Penn­syl­va­nia Ath­letic Over­sight Com­mit­tee (PAOC) meet­ing were the in­ten­tions be­hind Act 219 of 1972 and their cru­cial place in how the PIAA can ad­dress com­pet­i­tive im­bal­ance in its ranks, specif­i­cally whether or not that ef­fort would have to in­clude the Gen­eral Assem­bly. That is­sue took cen­ter stage at the hear­ing of the PAOC, a bi­cam­eral body of six leg­is­la­tors charge with mon­i­tor­ing scholas­tic ath­let­ics in the state, held at Heinz Field in Pitts­burgh.

A grow­ing con­tin­gent of public schools, led by the or­ga­niz­ers of July’s Play­off Eq­uity Sum­mit, be­lieve the only so­lu­tion to the dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of cham­pi­onships won by pri­vate schools is to par­ti­tion so-called “non­bound­ary” schools (i.e. pri­vate, parochial and char­ter schools) into sep­a­rate post­sea­son tour­na­ments. The pre­vail­ing no­tion, es­poused by ad­min­is­tra­tors and leg­is­la­tors, is that do­ing so would re­quire an act of the leg­is­la­ture, stem­ming from the 1972 act that granted pri­vate schools mem­ber­ship to the pre­vi­ously all-public PIAA.

But the lead­ers of the Eq­uity Sum­mit want to put Act 219 un­der the mi­cro­scope. Three su­per­in­ten­dents who tes­ti­fied — Mill­creek Town­ship’s Wil­liam Hall, Lau­rel’s Leonard Rich and Har­mony Area’s Stu­art Al­baugh — sought to chal­lenge whether new leg­is­la­tion is needed or if the 1972 act of­fers suf­fi­cient lee­way for the PIAA, should it ap­proves plans via its board, to con­duct sep­a­rate cham­pi­onships.

The 1972 law, first in­tro­duced as House Bill 2104, un­der­went three re­vi­sions. It first stip­u­lated an amend­ment to the Public School Code that, “Pri­vate schools that par­tic­i­pate with public schools in sched­uled ath­letic con­tests dur­ing the play­ing sea­son shall be per­mit­ted, if qual­i­fied, to par­tic­i­pate in post-sea­son ath­letic con­tests.” Af­ter vet­ting by the House’s Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee, it re­turned to the floor with slightly al­tered lan­guage: “Pri­vate schools shall be per­mit­ted, if qual­i­fied, to par­tic­i­pate in post­sea­son ath­letic con­tests WITH PUBLIC SCHOOLS” (em­pha­sis in orig­i­nal).

The fi­nal text of the bill is pared down to, “Pri­vate Schools shall be per­mit­ted, if OTHER­WISE qual­i­fied, to BE MEM­BERS OF THE PENN­SYL­VA­NIA INTERSCHOLASTIC ATH­LETIC AS­SO­CI­A­TION”. To the su­per­in­ten­dents, the al­ter­ations speak to in­tent, which would change the PIAA’s lat­i­tude to con­duct sep­a­rate cham­pi­onships (and its le­gal li­a­bil­ity in do­ing so) with­out leg­isla­tive in­ter­ven­tion. Both State Sen. Jay Costa, D-43 of Pitts­burgh, and PAOC Chair­man Rep. Gene DiGiro­lamo, R-18 of Ben­salem, ad­vo­cated a le­gal re­view of the act.

“It would be hard for me to be­lieve the in­tent of the law … was to al­low schools to be part of the PIAA and then not al­low them to play in cham­pi­onship rounds against other schools,” DiGiro­lamo said as part of his clos­ing re­marks. “It’s hard to be­lieve that was the leg­isla­tive in­tent.”

That de­ter­mi­na­tion merely al­ters how public-school ad­vo­cates would go about en­act­ing the change they seek. The three su­per­in­ten­dents stumped for a plan that di­vided public schools into four clas­si­fi­ca­tions, A-4A, by en­roll­ment, with pri­vate schools sorted into Class 5A and 6A.

Most of the con­ver­sa­tion topics hewed to pro­ce­dural as­pects. State Sen. Costa ex­pressed dis­con­tent that the PIAA pushed through a raft of sig­nif­i­cant rule changes at its July meet­ing — in­clud­ing a post­sea­son ban for stu­dents trans­fer­ring af­ter ninth grade — on sec­ond read­ing, es­chew­ing the typ­i­cal three read­ings and, in Costa’s view, short­ing con­stituen­cies a chance to re­view and lodge ob­jec­tions. PIAA board chair­man James T. Zack tes­ti­fied that the moves were “nec­es­sary to en­sure that the rules were in place for an en­tire schools year and the start of the two-year clas­si­fi­ca­tion cy­cle.”

“I’ve been dis­ap­pointed in the way the PIAA went about adopt­ing new reg­u­la­tions re­lated to trans­fers, and the un­fair­ness of the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween pri­vate and public schools in state cham­pi­onships,” Costa tweeted from his of­fi­cial ac­count. “I made that clear to PIAA in our over­sight com­mit­tee meet­ing this morn­ing.”

The three su­per­in­ten­dents ex­pressed con­cerns that their voices were be­ing muted via PIAA chan­nels. Hall, Rich and Al­baugh con­vened the sum­mit of more than 150 public school rep­re­sen­ta­tives in July seek­ing reme­dies to the public-pri­vate im­bal­ance, a group over­whelm­ingly com­posed of smaller schools in the western half of the state. They’ve toned down rhetoric about splin­ter­ing from the PIAA to sanc­tion their own tour­na­ments, but they’ve been re­buffed by the PIAA, which in­sists that such busi­ness be brought be­fore the board di­rectly.

The PIAA’s ex­pan­sive board in­cludes 32 elected mem­bers, rep­re­sent­ing not just the 12 ge­o­graphic dis­tricts but var­i­ous in­ter­est groups, in­clud­ing school boards, ad­min­is­tra­tors, prin­ci­pals and ath­letic di­rec­tors, as well as pri­vate schools. (There’s no char­ter school rep­re­sen­ta­tive yet, which also was broached at the hear­ing.) Zack im­plored that such pro­pos­als be brought to the board, and that “the stake­hold­ers that de­sire dis­cus­sion here to­day have failed to follow the es­tab­lished process of sub­mit­ting items for dis­cus­sion through their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives” to the board.

Hall and oth­ers pushed back at that no­tion.

“We were flat out told no from the get-go that they would not even ad­dress sep­a­rate play­offs,” Hall told the Daily Times. “We felt we had no other re­course but to or­ga­nize our­selves and that’s what we did.”

Hall added that sur­veys dis­trib­uted by his or­ga­ni­za­tion to 350 dis­tricts statewide have yielded a 94 per­cent re­sponse rate in fa­vor of sep­a­rate cham­pi­onship. Public schools rep­re­sent 76 per­cent of PIAA’s mem­ber­ship.

Leg­is­la­tors joined the PIAA in ca­jol­ing the public school ad­vo­cates to pur­sue their goals through reg­u­lar busi­ness. Only obliquely ref­er­enced by the su­per­in­ten­dents was Act 91, the bill that in­au­gu­rated the PAOC and which stip­u­lates that it can dis­band the PIAA if it is deemed in­suf­fi­cient to over­see ath­let­ics and re­place it with a new body, but such a dooms­day sce­nario re­mains a dis­tant propo­si­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.