Vo-tech confusion leads PIAA to delay release of new classifications for sports teams

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

All of the high school sports teams in Pennsylvania anxiously awaiting the new PIAA realignment for sports classifications? Sorry, you'll have to wait until after the new year begins.

The PIAA board of directors met Wednesday afternoon in Mechanicsburg and decided to hold off on releasing classifications for all sports teams in the state. The reason is that many schools around the state miscalculated their enrollment numbers because of confusion on how to count vo-tech students.

So, the PIAA is having a do-over with classification parameters that were already issued. The PIAA had planned to release classifications for all sports teams later this week but will not do it now until early January.

"We will inform schools that we will re-open a portal for schools to resubmit their enrollment numbers, if needed, by Dec. 15," PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. "This is our best effort at getting this 100 percent correct."

The PIAA realigns sports classifications for all sports every two years, based on enrollment numbers of boys and girls in grades 9-11. This year, schools had until Oct. 15 to submit their enrollment numbers. Based on those numbers, the PIAA released classification parameters to the schools for all sports.

But the PIAA began learning that many schools had incorrectly counted vo-tech students.

The PIAA system for counting enrollments has schools counting their students in grades 9-11. But schools are not supposed to count cyber/charter/home-schooled/vo-tech students in that total. The PIAA takes 10% of those students and adds them to the total enrollment.

So, let's say a school has 400 boys in grades 9-11. And the school has another 50 boys that are cyber/charter/home-schooled/vo-tech. The PIAA takes 10% of that 50, which is five, and adds it to the total boys’ enrollment to come up with a final number of 405.

Many schools were mistakenly counting all of their vo-tech students in their original total of students in grades 9-11. The PIAA plans to release new classification parameters the week of Dec. 20. Schools then have until Jan. 5 to inform the PIAA if they want to play "up" in class. The PIAA will then issue classifications for all sports teams after Jan. 5.

"The only real change that should be coming is from those schools that made the mistake with the vo-tech students," Lombardi said. "There were schools interpreting the vo-tech students many different ways. That's the shortcoming that happened and we really became aware of the problem."

Lombardi also said the board discussed possibly changing the way vo-tech students and others are counted when the next realignment comes up in two years.

"The board is going to re-evaluate the whole classification process," Lombardi said. "There is some feeling that we should take a percentage [of vo-tech students] and some feel they should not be included at all. There are variables statewide. It's going to take a full re-evaluation of that process at a future date."

Aliquippa issue: Lombardi said the PIAA board is willing to listen to an appeal from the Aliquippa football team about being bumped up from Class 4-A to 5-A, even though Aliquippa's school enrollment would place the Quips in 1A.

Aliquippa chose a few years ago to play "up" in 3-A, but was bumped up to Class 4-A the past two seasons because of the PIAA's new competitive-balance rule, where teams can be bumped up one class if they go far in the postseason two years in a row and also have at least three transfer students on the football team over a two-year period.

Aliquippa is in the PIAA Class 4-A championship Thursday after making the WPIAL final last year. Aliquippa also has had at least three transfer students in the past two years. So, under the rules, Aliquippa will be in Class 5A next year. Lombardi said the competitive balance rules will not change, despite Aliquippa's objections.

"When you're having success in a two-year cycle and taking transfers, we're going to group you per our policy," Lombardi said.

Aliquippa has said it will appeal a bump up to Class 5A, but no date has been set for the appeal.

Girls' wrestling an emerging sport: The PIAA recognized girls wrestling, on a first reading basis, as an "emerging sport." That means there is a possibility that in the near future girls wrestling could be a PIAA-sponsored sport.