PIAA considers plan that could bump up champs in class

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (TNS)
  • The PIAA is considering a new, radical success-based system for its teams.
  • Under the plan, teams winning consecutive district or state titles could get bumped up in class.
  • PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi presented the idea Wednesday at a WPIAL meeting.

Win consecutive district or state titles and the PIAA could move you into a higher classification.

It's a radical success-based system meant to improve competitive balance, and PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi presented the idea Wednesday while addressing school administrators at the WPIAL's annual meeting in Green Tree. For now, the idea is merely a topic the new PIAA competition committee will consider, but Lombardi labeled it a worthwhile debate.

From left, Reese Devilbiss, Chris Lee, Brandon Arentz, Drew Landis and Jeff Reynolds, celebrate after defeating Ambridge Area High School in the PIAA Class 2-A Boys' Volleyball State Championship Match at Penn State University last June. It was Northeastern's fourth straight state title. Under a proposal being considered by the PIAA, winning consecutive state titles would force that team to bump up in class. In Northeastern's case, the team would've been pushed up to Class 3-A.

“When teams repeat — especially in football and basketball — people don't like it,” Lombardi said. “I think it's worth having the conversation. Where it goes, I'm not sure. But I'm really proud that the (PIAA) board would take it on and say let's take a look at it.”

The PIAA created the competition committee last month and tasked it with examining competitive balance issues, including the state's transfer rule and the way classifications are crafted. Lombardi on Wednesday discussed the often-criticized transfer policy, including a proposed 21-day ineligibility period for mid-season transfers, but insisted rewriting those rules isn't a cure-all.

“The transfer rule is just one piece,” Lombardi said. “There are a lot of things there that need to be discussed. Part of it is competitive balance and part of it is how we classify.”

The inspiration for the success-based reclassification idea was found in Indiana and other states. Like the PIAA, the Indiana High School Athletic Association has six football classifications and realigns every two years. But rather than strictly use enrollment numbers, the IHSAA has a success-based formula for the championship-winning teams.

“If you win a district, a regional or a state championship, you get so many points,” Lombardi said. “If you accumulate ‘X' number of points in two years, you move up in class. … Maybe Indiana is on to something.”

Lombardi mentioned that the Clairton football teams could have moved up in years past under the system. Clairton reached five consecutive state finals from 2008-12.

York County example: If the proposal was currently in effect, it's very likely Northeastern, which has won four straight PIAA Class 2-A state boys' volleyball championships, would have been moved up to Class 3-A.

“California does something a little different,” Lombardi said. “They drill down to the league level and they use something like an ASA softball model that if you're really successful a couple of years in your league, then you have to go up a level.”

Among the other topics discussed:

Week Zero: Week Zero, which allowed football teams to replace a preseason scrimmage with a regular-season game, will not expand to other sports.

“Soccer asked to start a week earlier, the same week we start heat acclimatization in football, and then play Week Zero,” Lombardi said. “The (PIAA) board said no. The board said Week Zero is a football issue only. Now, will that change? Who ever thought McDonalds would sell chicken and salads? Things do change.”

Track and field classes: The PIAA might expand track and field from two to three classifications, but the number of state qualifiers can't increase drastically.

“We can't handle another 1,300 athletes, so the expansion to 3,900 athletes in track and field is not going to happen,” Lombardi said. “However, there may be expansion to three classifications and a manipulation of how many athletes actually are coming. That's still on the board.”