PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi speaks to state Athletic Oversight Committee

(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi.

A hearing Monday over legislation to create separate high school playoff tournaments for public and for private schools in Pennsylvania was dominated by questions about who should be involved, and when, in conversations about such policy matters.

Robert Lombardi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, told members of the state’s Athletic Oversight Committee that his nonprofit’s charge was to consult with the committee, and not with a group that includes a lawmaker whose bill proposes revamping the playoff process.

That lawmaker, Lawrence County Republican state Rep. Aaron Rinehart, directly questioned Lombardi to illustrate his contention that Lombardi had not accepted opportunities to be involved in Rinehart’s proposal to make that change.

In a recently filed bill, Rinehart has proposed the creation of two separate playoff tournaments, one for public and one for private schools, that has been criticized by Lombardi.

The two spoke before a meeting of the Athletic Oversight Committee at midday Monday in the Pennsylvania Capitol. The panel was created in 2004 for oversight of PIAA regarding a state law.

"Taken aback and disappointed:" Prior to the Monday hearing, DiGirolamo said in an interview that Bernstine’s bill took him by surprise.

He said he was “taken aback and disappointed” that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference — a major player in the concept proposed by Bernstine — did not give the Athletic Oversight Committee a heads-up about the work.

“As chairman of the oversight committee, none of us were aware until this week that anything was going on,” DiGirolamo said on Friday.

The committee aired out the two-playoff tournament issue in full during a hearing months ago in Pittsburgh, according to DiGirolamo.

Beyond that, though, DiGirolamo said he was unable to comment on the bill because he did not have its specific language.