Group of Pa. ADs wants separate conferences for public and private-Catholic schools

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
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A group of more than three dozen high school athletic directors from western Pennsylvania Class 3-A, 2-A and 1-A public schools plan to approach the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (District 7) and ask the league that they no longer schedule their sports teams for regular-season games against private, Catholic and charters schools that don't have geographic boundaries to draw students.

Forty-four athletic directors met in a Zoom video Friday afternoon to discuss ideas and how to draft a letter to the WPIAL asking that the league hold off on sending out football schedules next week. Some ADs want to meet with WPIAL administrators and discuss putting only public schools in sections or conferences, while private, Catholic and charter schools would play in sections or conferences by themselves.

Public schools can only attract students from their geographic districts while private, Catholic and charter schools don't have geographic boundaries for students. The athletic directors are not asking to have separate playoffs for the two groups. Rather, they are suggesting private, Catholic and charter schools play against public schools in the playoffs, but not in the regular season.

"This is how they do it in Philadelphia. They have a separate Catholic league and then come together for the playoffs," said Ed Dalton, McGuffey athletic director and coach.

A number of the ADs said they are tired of losing athletes to Catholic and private schools and tired of playing in sections and conferences against non-boundary schools.

Nate Milsom, athletic director at Carlynton, said the school's football team has had six players transfer to Catholic or private schools since the season ended.

Other athletic directors threw out claims of recruiting by some Catholic schools but said it's hard to prove recruiting to the WPIAL. Recruiting student athletes is against PIAA and WPIAL rules. The WPIAL and PIAA suspended Mauro Monz from coaching at Seton LaSalle this past season because of alleged recruiting.

"Enough is enough and we want to move forward with this," Milsom said.

Milsom is one of the organizers of the group of athletic directors, along with Dalton and Freedom coach/athletic director John Rosa.

"We need to represent a unified front to the WPIAL to have a voice in this," Rosa said.

Added Kurt Kesneck, athletic director at Chartiers-Houston: "We've lost three athletes to Bishop Canevin. I was told by the WPIAL that we don't have enough evidence to get anything done."

Other athletic directors complained about losing athletes to Bishop Canevin.

A few athletic directors complain that some of their sports teams play in sections against mostly private and Catholic schools.

"Our schools need to compete against other public schools who play by the same rules," Rosa said.

Mike Mastroianni, boys basketball coach and athletic director at Quaker Valley said, "We've lived with this (public vs. private issue) for over 30 years, but it's almost at another level now."

The athletic directors are hoping to start an organization to represent the Class 3-A, 2-A and 1-A schools, much like the Big 56, an organization of ADs that represent Class 6-A, 5-A and 4-A schools.

Some athletic directors on the Zoom meeting Friday said they have to run this idea by their school boards before lending support to the organization or a letter to the WPIAL.

Athletic directors say they are not giving the WPIAL an ultimatum. They are making a request to examine their ideas.