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Pennsylvania basketball coach says PIAA's decision on competitive-balance rule unfair

CHRIS HARLAN
(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
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If the PIAA competitive-balance rule forces the Lincoln Park boys basketball team into a higher classification next season, coach Mike Bariski thinks that’s unfair.

“We’re not averse to going up,” he said. “I just totally disagree with the process.”

Two months ago, Bariski would have accepted the promotion without objection. There’s no dispute that his team accumulated six “success” points under the PIAA formula and added at least one transfer, the limits written into the rule.

But Bariski’s opinion changed once the PIAA canceled this year’s state basketball tournament before the quarterfinal round. That cancellation kept other teams from being promoted, he said, so the rule should be ignored entirely as the PIAA sorts teams into classifications for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

“You’re letting a lot of schools off the hook,” Bariski said. “It’s a process that’s measuring us by a different standard than everybody else.”

The dilemma: Here’s the dilemma: Fifteen boys and girls teams already reached the six success-point threshold that put them in danger for promotion, including the Lincoln Park boys, the Chartiers Valley girls and North Catholic girls. But there are 26 others that could have joined them if the tournaments were allowed to continue.

“That’s what bothers us,” Bariski said. “Not the fact of playing (in Class) 4A. It’s the principle.”

The PIAA formula awards four success points to teams that reach the state finals, three to semifinalists, two to quarterfinalists or one for making the first round.

Points are counted over two seasons. The PIAA then examines the rosters of teams that collected six or more to see whether they also added any transfers. Teams must have both too many points and transfers to move up.

“The only ones that will be affected by this rule are the teams that made it to the state championship last year,” Bariski said, since nobody this year earned more than two points.

Lincoln Park won the PIAA Class 3-A title last season and was scheduled to face Beaver Falls in this year’s quarterfinals when the tournament was canceled in response to the covid-19 outbreak.

PIAA plans to enforce rule, despite cancellation: The PIAA reiterated this month that the competitive-balance rule will be enforced despite the cancellation.

“The Competition Formula for basketball will be in effect,” the PIAA posted on its website. “PIAA will use results from 2019 Championships in addition to results through the 2020 Quarterfinals Championship games to determine which teams have accumulated six points over the two-year cycle.”

Delone girls among teams at risk: Also at risk for promotion are the boys teams of Archbishop Wood, Imhotep Charter, Bonner-Prendergast, Camp Hill Trinity, MCS Charter, Bishop Guilfoyle and Sankofa Freedom. Along with the Chartiers Valley and North Catholic girls, Bellwood Antis, Dunmore, Delone Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic and Archbishop Carroll accumulated six success points, according to the PIAA formula.

Executive director Bob Lombardi said Monday the PIAA is finalizing the reports to be sent to schools. Once Lincoln Park is notified, Bariski said, he plans to appeal.

Rule adopted two years ago: The competitive-balance rule was enacted by the PIAA board two years ago, in part to quiet calls from public school administrators demanding a separate postseason tournament for private schools. Next school year — 2020-21 — will be the first time teams are forced to move up.

The rule impacts only football and basketball.

“Football got to finish, so that is sealed in cement,” Bariski said. “We didn’t get to finish.”