York County coaches weigh in on move to expand classes for PIAA athletics
When the PIAA Board of Directors voted Wednesday to expand high school football from four classes to six, it didn't stop there.
The PIAA spent all of 2015 examining the benefits and downsides to the possible change. When the decision was approved by a 26-4 vote, it ended 10 months of detailed discussion and three separate stages of voting. Within 15 minutes after football expanded, so too did nearly every other high school sport in the state.
Boys' and girls' lacrosse went from one class to two; field hockey expanded from two classes to three; boys' and girls' soccer and girls' volleyball went from three to four classes; and baseball, softball and basketball expanded from four classes to six.
Football was obviously the biggest decision, because whatever happened with football would likely wind up happening with other sports. It was just a matter of whether the other sports would follow suit now or in the future.
Not a fan: Back in August, during York-Adams football media day, a number of coaches voiced their opinions on the matter. For some, there was no real positive or negative reaction to the possible move, but Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay was one who was openly against the move. Now, with class expansion officially approved beginning July 1, 2016 for the next two-year cycle, he still isn't a fan.
"I don't know what problem this solves," he said. "If the big problem is the discrepancy in enrollment at the upper level, well all we really did was just say the upper level was four and now it's six. You're still going to have schools with 600 boys competing against schools with 2,100 boys. So, I'm not quite sure what this was a solution to."
While the change was made to add more competitive balance within each classification by narrowing the gap between the largest and smallest schools in each class, the upper level will still likely see the biggest difference between member schools. Even with the 10 percent rule in effect, which means schools only have to count 10 percent of home-schooled, cyber-schooled and charter-school students toward its male enrollment, there will still be schools with close to 2,000 male students competing against schools with less than a thousand boys at the new 6-A level. In the other five classes, the largest and smallest schools may only be separated by a couple hundred boys. With a male enrollment of 809 this year, Red Lion will likely always be in the highest classification.
In favor: While Red Lion and York High look to be on the path of being in the 6-A class, the other two largest schools in the county, Dallastown and Central York, could wind up in either 6-A or 5-A depending on how the 10-percent rule plays out. Regardless of where his team ends up, Dallastown coach Kevin Myers likes the idea of two extra classes because it could break up the powers in current Class 4-A and allow some other schools the chance at playing in the postseason and competing for a title.
The change also puts Pennsylvania on a par with the other big football states that also have at least six classes.
"I think it's a little more fair," Myers said. "If you look across the nation and most of the average is crowning a champion around one out of 100 and we're (now) doing one out of, I think, 154."
Other sports: For a couple other coaches of non-football sports in the area, they were also in favor of the class expansion.
York High boys' basketball coach Troy Sowers knew that class expansion in other sports had been kicked around, but not heavily discussed, like football. But, he was pleased to find out that it was all happening at once.
"I had heard rumblings about it a couple months ago when they talked about possibly doing the other sports as well," he said. "And I think it makes sense because it's only going to come later down the line once you do one sport like that and I think just to make everything uniform, I thought they'd include the other sports as well because now it's a one-time thing. ... I don't think it would've made sense to go football and then bring the other sports in later."
For Bret Altimore, head coach of the Dover girls' soccer team, he could hardly contain his excitement over the news of soccer going from three to four classes. Dover has the seventh-lowest female enrollment out of AAA schools at 399 girls, but currently competes in the highest class against some schools that have more than 1,000 female students. So he viewed the expansion news as an encouraging sign. With the addition of a fourth class, his Eagles will likely stay in AAA, while some of the much larger schools will get bumped up to AAAA, beginning next year.
"I'm absolutely tickled pink that they brought soccer to four classifications," Altimore said. "Because truthfully, I think we may have been like two or four people over to put us in AAA, so we're competing against the biggest schools in the state, which may be three or four times the size of us. So, I'm absolutely tickled pink."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker