WPIAL’s five-year probation is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘setting you up for failure,’ says Monessen superint…

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018 | 1:51 PM


Students currently in elementary school shouldn't be punished for a high school basketball brawl, said Monessen Superintendent Leanne Spazak, who wants the WPIAL-imposed five-year probation reduced.

Spazak said Wednesday that Monessen will appeal the WPIAL-mandated discipline to the PIAA.

“It's a long time. It's going to affect kids who are in fifth grade now, and it's setting you up for failure,” Spazak said. “How can you guarantee in every single sport in five years, nothing is ever going to happen? It just seems ridiculous.”

Monessen already contacted the PIAA to appeal.

“That's something every school is entitled to do,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said, “and with the length of the probation that the board placed on them, it's probably understandable that they want to appeal.”

Monessen and Clairton had their boys basketball game halted by a fight in the fourth quarter Feb. 6 at Clairton. The on-court fight between players escalated to a brawl when fans left the bleachers and joined the melee.

Following a hearing Monday, the WPIAL board of directors announced discipline that included a five-year probationary period for each school. If any athletics team violated that probation, the offending team would be excluded from the WPIAL playoffs and face a two-year regular-season ban from the WPIAL.

“It was pretty harsh for our level of involvement in the incident,” Spazak said. “It was out of our control. Even in the (WPIAL) hearing, it pretty much seemed that it wasn't our fault. So five years for all of our athletic programs is absurd.”

The strict probation was applied to all varsity sports, not just boys basketball, a detail Monessen disliked.

“It should only be basketball,” Spazak said.

Additionally, the WPIAL limited Clairton and Monessen to 30 presale adult tickets for this year's boys basketball playoff games. No tickets will be sold at the gate.

With reducing the probation, Monessen would like the PIAA to remove that ticket restriction.

“We are concerned about the presale tickets,” Spazak said. “As a small school, that's revenue for us. … Last year during the playoffs we brought in like $2,500. That's equipment. That goes to our sports programs. When you have limited funds, you need any little bit of money you can get for our sports programs.”

Athletic director Gina Naccarato said the district purchased the 30 available tickets and will distribute one to each cheerleader and boys basketball player. The four seniors on the basketball team will receive two tickets, she said.

Among the WPIAL's other punishments, all Clairton and Monessen basketball players who left the bench during the fight must be suspended one game. The suspensions will be staggered two players at a time, allowing each team enough to compete in the playoffs. If need be, the suspensions will carry over to next season.

For the next two seasons, Clairton must play its home varsity boys basketball games at 4 p.m. Spectators are permitted.

If Clairton and Monessen are scheduled to play one another in boys basketball during the next two seasons, those varsity games will take place at 4 p.m. with no spectators.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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