The heated debate over the length of Pennsylvania's football season has died down -- at least for now.

A year ago the issue went nuclear, when proponents of a reduced 15-week season thought they finally had a done deal, only to see some questionable reversals at the 11th hour, when things fell apart.

The 16-week season survived, but many remain upset about it. They believe that weather -- despite what you've enjoyed this week -- is a factor in a northern state such as Pennsylvania.

They also believe, as I do, that basketball, wrestling and other winter sports have been stepped on by the football monster too much. Enough, already.

The PIAA needs to come to a common-sense solution and solve this issue once and for all. Add a fifth and/or sixth class and reduce the length of the season to 15 weeks.

It could be done without the loss of scrimmages, without starting practice the first week of August and without a significantly deep cut in district playoffs.

Most of the coaches I've surveyed aren't in favor of reducing playoff games or the 10-game regular season.

Coaches love playoff games, no doubt. And for years the District 3 fields were too restricted. Now they're bloated, with 16-team fields in Class AAAA and AAA.

I could live with an eight-team field in each. There are occasional upsets but few significant ones. (Yes, I know that District 1-AAAA top seed Downingtown East got bounced this year by No. 16 Wissahickon, but that's practically unprecedented.)


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In the 28-year history of Quad-A playoffs in District 3, the top seed has won the championship 12 times, the No. 2 seed seven times. No team seeded eighth or lower has ever won it.

In 31 years of District 3-AAA playoffs the champ has been seeded lower than fourth just twice and never below eighth.

So, do we really need that extra round of postseason?

Pennsylvania is out of step when it comes to much of what it does regarding scholastic sports.

Ohio, a state similar to Pennsylvania in many respects, has six classifications and a 15-week season. It's champs were crowned last weekend.

Florida and North Carolina have eight classes; Texas has 10.

To fix this, the PIAA would basically need to start from scratch and totally reinvent itself. Eliminate four of its unwieldy 12 districts and go to eight regions with a similar number of schools in each.

This won't happen, of course, because it would require both common sense and for current board members to give up their fiefdoms and essentially vote themselves out of existence.

Don't hold your breath.

Wilson coach Doug Dahms, whose team is in a Class AAAA semifinal Saturday against North Allegheny, is fine with the current 16-week setup. Yes, he knows it's a grind on young players, but it happens only so often, he figures. He understands it's not a perfect system but is not in favor of cutting games or scrimmages. Few coaches are.

Wyomissing coach Bob Wolfrum, whose team is in a Class AA semifinal against Imhotep Charter, is in favor of cutting the season to 15 weeks and of adopting six classes.

Kevin Keating, who's taken his Pottsville team to a pair of state title games, feels an 18-week season -- two scrimmages and 16 games -- is too much to ask of young players. He's concerned about injuries and the mental toll it takes. He's in favor of adding classifications.

Brad Cashman, the former PIAA executive director, was terribly disappointed last December when the 15-week proposal came up four votes short -- in part because several PIAA voting members ducked out of the room prior to the crucial vote.

"I don't think some of the people on the board know how bad this makes the PIAA look," Cashman said at the time.

Dr. Robert Lombardi, who succeeded Cashman in July, is opting to stay out of this fray for the moment. He thinks a little "cooling off" period between the two sides is prudent at this point.

Lombardi is more concerned at present about football safety issues concerning heat acclimatization, concussions and helmets. At some point, in another couple of years -- perhaps after a blinding December snowstorm prevents a team from making it to Hershey -- this thorny issue will resurface.

It will not be solved easily, not in the current political climate. You think we've got gridlock in Washington? Try bringing all the Pennsylvania football factions into agreement on this issue.

I'm betting there's peace in the Middle East first.