PIAA classification expansion hurts WPIAL the most


Classification expansion will change the traditional high school football in PA

Pennsylvania High School football will never be the same. Earlier this month, the PIAA voted on a proposal to expand from the current four classification system to a new six class system and it passed with a 26-4 vote out of the 30 members of the PIAA board of directors. This new change will go in effect starting next season in September 2016. This change is earth-shattering as the four class system has been in effect since the late 80’s and had no issues it seemed throughout the state of Pennsylvania. There were also votes passed to expand boys and girls basketball plus baseball and softball to six classes as well.

    The expansion will play a big role in changing the landscape of high school football in Pennsylvania forever and also will hurt one league the most, the WPIAL. The WPIAL is the entire District 7 and is also the oldest high school sports league in Pennsylvania. For years the WPIAL was one of if not the biggest power of the 12 districts in Pennsylvania and has won the most state titles combined in the four classes. It was little surprise that District 7 was completely opposed to the expansion and rightfully so. This expansion will threaten the great tradition of high school football in the WPIAL by threatening some longstanding rivalries to cease and also spike the cost the travel up greatly. Also with six classes, the PIAA will shorten the football season by one week at the end. Districts will have the option of having their teams play two scrimmages, or one scrimmage and start playing games the second week.

    One of the reasons to expand was in part after the influx of the Philadelphia Public and Catholic School leagues in 2008. The creation of District 12 added more depth to the PIAA, but also created an unfair advantage due to the size of the schools and talent level they were bringing in. Some large Philly Catholic Schools would be playing down a classification which basically would give them a free pass to winning the state championship. Now a proposed system would have the majority of the Philly Catholic League all in the largest classification which would be 6A. That makes complete sense and in my opinion is a bonus to stop the straight dominance by the Philly Catholic League in every classification. Now this proposal does not completely give all the private schools their own classification and the PIAA refuses to discuss that possibility with anyone. As for the WPIAL, it will be interesting to see a possible standoff between the district and the PIAA. The WPIAL has thwarted previous attempts the PIAA has done to mess with their championship weekend that is held in late November at Heinz Field where the normal four classes would play on the same day and has gone on since 1986.    This feud could possibly become a fascinating battle between one of the largest scholastic athletic conferences in the country and Pennsylvania’s statewide association if they do indeed dig down deep on this issue.

    Whatever comes from this change, I  am not a fan of it. I believe this will make a mess with determining who will be in each class and Pennsylvania is not really built for six classes much like Texas, California, and Florida. This is something that has been in the works for years and it never went through until this year. I feared a day like this would come and now it is up to the PIAA to see how they handle this change and keep high school football in Pennsylvania the great tradition it always has been.