Jeff McLane | A growing PIAA faces more proposed changes
On July 1, the PIAA and its 800 or so member schools will welcome an additional 20 into the fold. It may not seem like much in comparison, but when the 20 Philadelphia Catholic League schools join the state-run athletic association, the repercussions will be felt from the Delaware River to Lake Erie and the many farms in between.
On July 1, the PIAA and its 800 or so member schools will welcome an additional 20 into the fold.
It may not seem like much in comparison, but when the 20 Philadelphia Catholic League schools join the state-run athletic association, the repercussions will be felt from the Delaware River to Lake Erie and the many farms in between.
For PIAA executive director Brad Cashman, it will be a day of satisfaction. For years, the PIAA has tried to draw the two chief Philadelphia leagues away from their autonomous ways, and it will be on Cashman's watch that the Catholic and Public (in 2003) Leagues became members.
But there is no rest for the cheery. Since December, when the Catholic League announced its move, there have been several proposals that would alter the landscape of scholastic athletics in Pennsylvania.
Some have come as a direct result of the Catholic League's impending move. Some are unconnected, while others, in the works for years, could easily be perceived as being related to the infusion of newcomers.
Here's a summation:
Transfer rule. In March, a proposed modification to the transfer rule passed a second reading by the PIAA board of control.
Sprung from District 7 - or the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association - the rule change would essentially forbid transfers from playing varsity sports for a year.
There are a few exceptions - such as changes of residence due to employment or rare cases of personal hardship - but the only way a transfer athlete can participate in a sport for the first year is at the JV level.
The third reading is scheduled for May 23 at the board of directors' meetings and will need 20 of 30 votes from the board to become a by-law amendment.
"That's something that's going to be close," said Cashman, "if it's going to pass at all."
The board is made up of the 12 district chairmen and other district heads, along with a smattering of other school and athletic officials. Because the WPIAL is the largest district, it has three officials on the board. So that gives the WPIAL at least three of the necessary 20 yea votes.
It's no secret that the WPIAL is hoping to curtail the transferring from public to private schools. For years, athletes used religion - or academics - as reasons for switching schools.
However, while the rule change, if passed, would begin in conjunction with the Catholic League's transitional year of membership, it was not created as a by-product.
Recruiting. While the practices used by private schools to attract students to their schools have long been under the public-school microscope, they will come under closer inspection come July.
A more pressing note, however, is a Tennessee recruiting case that was tried before the Supreme Court (yes, that one) more than two weeks ago.
In 1997, the football coach from Brentwood Academy - a private school in Tennessee - sent letters to prospective athletes about attending a spring camp. The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, to which Brentwood belonged, found the act to be a violation of its recruiting rule.
The private school argued that its First Amendment rights to free speech were being violated.
The Supremes have yet to render an opinion, although Cashman feels confident the ruling will favor his comrades.
"Even the federal court ruled that it's a privilege and not a right," said Cashman.
In other words, if you want to recruit, don't belong to the TSSAA or, for our sake, the PIAA.
Catholic League applications. That very reason may have been why La Salle and St. Joseph's Prep reportedly wavered in joining the Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools in filing membership applications by the May 1 deadline.
But according to Cashman, all 20 forms are in the mail.
"My understanding is that they had the applications ready and they were postmarked May 1," said Cashman.
Before the applications reach the PIAA for "rubber stamping," as Cashman said, they must be filed through either District 1 or 12 - depending upon a school's location.
All 20 Catholic League schools will eventually call District 12 home.
Separate championships. In February, District 1 presented a proposal calling for separate private and public state titles.
According to Cashman, the proposal had flaws because it attempted to compare Pennsylvania to New Jersey, states with differing bodies. It was tabled at the March 23 meetings.
Still, there is almost no dispute this attempt at separate champions - there have been many - sprouted from the looming Catholic League membership.
"I believe it was a direct result," Cashman said.
It's fairly safe to say District 1 doesn't anticipate losing athletes to the Cardinal O'Haras of the Catholic League.
Shortened seasons. Another proposal that was shot down was the moving back of the football season one week.
There was nothing said of eliminating a week, but of starting summer practices a week earlier.
The idea failed, but there's still a problem with the overlapping of the fall and winter seasons. A recent suggestion which has gained steam is shortening all winter sports by a week at the front end.
Cashman hopes, in turn, that the fall season will be cut short a week earlier, as well.
"The two go hand in glove," said Cashman. "The attempt is to eliminate an overlap."