PIAA moves a step closer to change in football classifications


The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has approved a significant change to its enrollment policy and is inching closer to a decision on classifications for high school football.

While a decision has not been made whether to expand to six classifications or stay at four for football, the PIAA passed the 10 percent rule during a meeting of its board of directors Wednesday. What that means is public schools will only need to count 10 percent of students who are home schooled, cyber schooled, vocational schooled or charter schooled toward its enrollment for classification in all sports.

The motion, which passed on suspended protocol by a vote of 27-2 and is effective immediately for all sports, will have an impact when enrollments are submitted in late October for classification for the next two-year cycle that begins with the 2016-17 school year.

"I think that the Strategic Planning and Football Steering committees did a real good job here," PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi said. "With the board passing a change in the way that we classify schools it is an outstanding step, historic really. The board listened to concerns and acted in what it thought was the best interest of the membership."

Three proposals: In addition, the board also passed on a second read basis three proposals for discussion that would increase the number of classifications for football from four to six.

"Now, every district has firm talking points and data that it can go back to its member schools and say what do you support, and then bring that back to the board," Lombardi said.

Talks began Tuesday when the Strategic Planning and Football Steering Committees voted down a six-classification format with a Super 800 class for schools with an enrollment larger than 800.

They also declined a late proposal for a six-classification format that used a bell-curve enrollment formula.

Once the move to change how the PIAA formulates the enrollment number based on classification using a 10 percent factor had been recommended and accepted, that eliminated three football proposals for a change from four to six classes that used the straight enrollment as options.

That leaves three proposals put together by Bob Tonkin, a representative of District 9, that all passed on a second-read basis.

The first is maintaining the status quo in place since 1988 with four equal classifications.

The second outlines six equal classifications.

And the third has six classifications with the largest being a Super 700 class for schools with enrollments larger than 700.

A motion must pass three reads to be adopted.

"It's a positive move," said Mike Ognosky, who is a member of the PIAA Football Steering Committee. "There is still work to be done, but it is encouraging.

"I also want to make sure that we all get a chance to have our schools really take a close look at the proposals and see the direction each district wants to go."

District chairmen are being instructed to schedule informational meetings for their member schools before the Strategic Planning and Football Steering Committees will reconvene Sept. 16 to vote on what it will recommend to the Board of Directors at an Oct. 7 meeting.

While most of the discussion for increased classes surrounds football, Lombardi said he expects there to be more calls for reform from the other state-sponsored sports.

"I applaud what the board has done," Lombardi said. "There has been some discussion about other sports. We aren't ignoring that. Our focus right now is football, because there has been a lot of legwork and a lot of scenarios already worked out and in place for discussion.

"The people who have put in the work formulating this and giving the board a snapshot of the data have done a great job."

Other matters: In other matters from the PIAA:

• An idea of shortening the football season from 16 to 15 weeks never got to a vote. It was only discussed, "but that doesn't mean it's dead," said Lombardi.

• Passing on a second vote was a new plan that allows schools, leagues and districts around the state to have a second football scrimmage or play a game. It must pass one more vote.

• Passing a first vote was making boys and girls lacrosse two classifications at the PIAA level. The PIAA has had only one class for each in the past.