Pa. state championship football team files 2nd appeal to PIAA over forced move up to 5-A

PARTH UPADHYAYA
Beaver County Times (TNS)
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Aliquippa High School has filed its second appeal to the PIAA regarding the PIAA's decision to move the Quips' football program up from Class 4-A to 5-A starting this fall, Aliquippa School District Superintendent Dr. Phillip K. Woods told The Times on Tuesday afternoon.

This appeal is to the PIAA's board of directors, whereas the one the school submitted on Jan. 7 — which was denied on Jan. 13 — was addressed to the PIAA's executive staff. PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi "acknowledged receipt" of the latest appeal on Tuesday and a hearing via Zoom has been set for Jan. 26, according to Woods.

Aliquippa won the PIAA Class 4-A state football title in 2021.

Last week, the PIAA cited the team's eight transfer students, as well as its six "success points," over the past two seasons as the reason for it being denied. Woods said Aliquippa has now submitted further documentation to the PIAA which shows that at least six of those students identified were previously a part of the Aliquippa community and were forced to return home due to life circumstances — they were not players who were recruited to play football.

"We went all the way back to (records from) kindergarten, or as early as we could, to show that these kids were residents of Aliquippa but for whatever reason left, and — due to whatever reason — came back," Woods said. "... They have been established in our community from the onset."

It was also reported last week by The Daily Item that Southern Columbia Area High School's football team had won its initial appeal against the PIAA and would not be forced to move up from Class 2-A to 3-A next season. The Tigers of District 4 won their fifth consecutive PIAA title in December, but, according to the PIAA, don't have enough transfers to warrant being bumped up.

Woods said Aliquippa will be represented by himself, athletic director Brandon LeDonne, head coach Mike Warfield and principal Stacey Alexander, among others, at next week's virtual hearing.

He adds that Aliquippa leadership doesn't plan to give up if denied again in this current appeal process, though he wouldn't elaborate on what a potential next move could entail.

"There is going to be another step — I can promise you that," Woods said. "This is not the end. The second appeal is not the end of our process. If we're not successful at this level, we're prepared to go to the next level."