Gettysburg mulls move from York-Adams League to Mid-Penn

The Gettysburg High School football team charges onto the field during a 2019 game vs. York Suburban. Gettysburg is now looking into leaving the York-Adams League for the Mid-Penn Conference.
  • The Gettysburg Area School District is exploring a move to the Mid-Penn Conference.
  • Gettysburg moved from the Mid-Penn to York-Adams League in 2014.
  • If it occurs, the possible change in conferences is expected to happen for the 2022-2023 academic year.

The York-Adams League might be losing one of its most competitive members.

During its board meeting on Oct. 20, the Gettysburg Area School District approved a motion made by school board vice president Al Moyer to investigate the merits of a move to the Harrisburg-based Mid-Penn Conference.

“I believe the rigidity of (the Y-A League's) rules and regulations sometimes limits us and our programs, and I would really like to see at least an investigation and a study of the pros and cons of such a move,” Moyer said during the meeting.

Wrestling issue: The rule Moyer mentioned that has irritated some Gettysburg coaches and parents is the way the Y-A League aligns its divisions. The league uses school enrollment size to decide divisional alignment, and some folks in Gettysburg are not big supporters of that setup, especially in wrestling.

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Gettysburg has become a wrestling power in recent years, but it is scheduled to compete in Y-A Division II starting this winter. D-II is not generally regarded as a strong wrestling division. Gettysburg won the D-I title this past season. It was dropped from D-I to D-II for the 2020-21 season based on its enrollment. Gettysburg requested to remain in D-I, but that request was denied.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, Gettysburg also won baseball, girls' basketball, boys' basketball, girls' cross country and girls' soccer titles, all in D-II.

Dallastown's Caden Dobbins, left, and Gettysburg's Jacob Fetrow wrestle in the 113 pound weight class during wrestling action at Gettysburg Area High School in Gettysburg, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. Gettysburg has been a York-Adams League member since 2014. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Instead of enrollment size, some Gettysburg folks would prefer to have geographic location and competitiveness factor into the division alignment. Gettysburg athletic director Casey Thurston said she had been told the Mid-Penn follows that type of setup.

Y-A League executive director Chuck Abbott declined to comment on Gettysburg’s potential departure from the 23-member league.

The move to the Y-A League: Thurston was the Gettysburg girls’ basketball coach when the school district moved from the Mid-Penn to Y-A League in 2014.

She said that then, and now, some coaches in the school did not agree with the change, for various reasons. Gettysburg belonged to the Mid-Penn from 1992 through 2014.

The Gettysburg and Central York girls' basketball teams battle during a game on Feb. 12, 2020. The Gettysburg girls' basketball team won a York-Adams League Division II title in 2020. It was one of several championships won by Gettysburg teams during the 2019-2020 academic year.

“When we first moved to York-Adams, I was a coach in this district at the time and there were numerous coaches who were not happy about the decision to go to York-Adams,” Thurston said. “For most of us, we have accepted the fact that we’re in York-Adams, but there are still several (coaches) that want to return to Mid-Penn.”

Travel concerns: In addition to the divisional alignment issues, concerns about travel issues were raised during the board meeting.

With Gettysburg’s location on the western end of the league's footprint, it was suggested that the time to travel to some eastern York-Adams League schools, such as Eastern York and Kennard-Dale, forces kids out of the classroom earlier than they should leave and could be alleviated with a move to the Mid-Penn.

When Gettysburg joined the Y-A League, however, potential travel savings were cited as a factor, particularly at the junior high and middle school level, where Gettysburg could compete against other Adams County programs.

The decision-making process: Thurston plans to speak with each Gettysburg coach and find out their thoughts on the move. The next school board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2, but the investigation is not expected to be completed in time for that meeting.

While nothing has been decided at this early point in the process, Thurston anticipates that Gettysburg would remain in the Y-A League until the 2022-2023 academic year even if the board approves the move. The conference change would need to then be approved by the Mid-Penn and Thurston was not sure of a timeline for that decision.

“I don’t think you want to make a rash decision by any means,” Thurston said. “We just started a two-year (scheduling) cycle, so this isn’t a quick turnaround, if the board does choose to move.”

Other concerns: Other issues that caused irritation for some in Gettysburg were a couple of Y-A policies that arose because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league decided before the season that only home fans would be permitted at Y-A events. That policy has not changed, even though Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has loosened limits on the spectators allowed at high school events. The policy prevents parents from watching the away games of their children in person. 

Gov. Wolf relaxes spectator limits, will allow some fans at games

The league, however, has said that every member school agreed to to the policy and that it wasn't a mandate. 

Additionally, the league decided that schools could only play league games this season. As a member of D-II in football, Gettysburg was limited to one fewer game than the Y-A schools in D-I and D-III. That's because D-II has just seven members, compared to eight in D-I and D-III. The uneven number of teams in D-II necessitates a bye week.

Down to 22 members? If Gettysburg were to leave, the league would be reduced to 22 members. It is uncertain what impact the Warriors' departure would have on division alignment for specific sports.

Northern York votes against joining York-Adams League

In 2017, it appeared as if Northern York would join the Y-A League as its 24th member, but the school board, in a surprise move, voted down the proposal, 5-4.

Northern York is also a Mid-Penn school and would likely be one of Gettysburg's major rivals if the Warriors were to return to the Mid-Penn. Other schools that Gettysburg would likely compete against in the Mid-Penn are Shippensburg, Big Spring, Waynesboro, James Buchanan and Greencastle-Antrim. 

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