On Monday, the District 3 committee members held a meeting to discuss how the district would vote regarding PIAA classification expansion in football.
Whenever the issue comes to a final vote — possibly later this year — District 3 officials came to a consensus that the district would cast its two votes for expansion from four classes to six classes. That means that the district is in favor of one of two possible expansion options — six equally distributed classes based on male enrollment or six classes that includes a "Super 700" classification. In the latter of the two proposals, any school that has a total male enrollment of more than 700 students would be placed in the "Super 700" classification and then the other five classes would be divided into five equal classes based on male enrollment.
In the case of class expansion, another factor that will come into play in determining where certain schools will wind up has to do with a "10 percent" rule. Under that rule, only 10 percent of a school's out-of-school enrollment figures — cyber school, home school, charter school, etc. — will be calculated in determining the school's male enrollment.
The final PIAA option on the table is to keep things status quo, four classifications — A, AA, AAA and AAAA.
"We've done surveys with our respective leagues last spring, regarding several issues relative to football," South Western athletic director Don Seidenstricker said on Tuesday. "And what came back, loudly and clearly, from our district was that by and large, District 3 favored expanding to six classifications."
Talks about expansion have been on-going for years. Should the PIAA bring the idea up for a final vote later this year, and there are enough votes to approve expansion, it's expected that the new classifications will take effect in time for the 2016 season.
Also part of the expansion discussions is reducing the season from 16 weeks to 15 weeks. If the current format stays the same, with only four classifications, some schools would be willing to sacrifice a second preseason scrimmage to keep the regular season at 10 games. However, with six classes, two preseason scrimmages could be kept, along with a 10-game regular season, because, with fewer teams in each classification, fewer teams from each class would qualify for the postseason, allowing the season to be shortened by a week. However, according to Seidenstricker, it would still be possible for more teams, overall, to qualify for the playoffs under a six-classification system, than the total number that currently qualify in the four classification system. Right now, 44 District 3 teams in total make the playoffs — 16 each in AAAA and AAA, eight in AA and four in A.
Seidenstricker, who's been an advocate for class expansion for decades, believes that, in a state like Pennsylvania, where school size varies greatly, there needs to be some more equality in how the schools are divided into classes. As it stands, by being broken into four classes, the lower three levels have school enrollments separated by only 200 students in each class. However, when you get to AAAA, some of the larger schools have 1,000 more male students than the smaller ones.
"So, (under the current system) it was an equitable breakdown from the number of schools in each classification, but it certainly was not equitable from a standpoint of the variable, which is enrollment," Seidenstricker said.
York-Adams League schools affected: Four York-Adams League schools could be drastically affected by expansion, if it happens.
As it stands, regardless of which expansion method gets approved, two Y-A League schools could be in the highest classification — Red Lion and York High. The Lions will be in the highest, regardless of which form of expansion gets approved, while the Bearcats could potentially avoid the "Super 700" class with help from the 10-percent rule.
The other two schools impacted, Dallastown (694) and Central York (673), would await their fates as to where they fall based on which form of expansion gets approved. Both would avoid the "Super 700" class, but could fall into the 6-A class if the PIAA decides to go with six, equally distributed classes.
All four coaches at those schools are in favor of expansion, albeit for different reasons. Jesse Shay, head coach of the Lions, says it doesn't matter what the PIAA decides on, because his team will be competing at the highest classification, regardless. However, what he does want is the 10 percent rule to be enacted.
"I like the idea of the 10 percent rule, as well," he said. "A public school like us, we're having to count kids for enrollment that aren't there, that aren't in our school. So, it's just a way to even the playing field just a little bit more so you're not counting the kids that I never see."
However, Brad Livingston, who will be entering his 34th season as head coach for the Panthers, thinks that the "Super 700" would benefit his team the most because then he wouldn't have to worry about going up against large schools, such as Cumberland Valley, Chambersburg, J.P. McCaskey and Reading, which all have more than 1,000 male students.
"I think it is a huge deal when you might have to go up against teams that have 1,000-1,200 boys to choose from," he said. "Right now, the space between school sizes in most of those classifications is way too large."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker