George Guido: Pennsylvania not only state with public-private sports debate

By: George Guido
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 | 5:55 PM

My goodness! I go on vacation for a week and come back to a major Alle-Kiski Valley upheaval.

Kelly Robinson retired as St. Joseph boys basketball coach after 21 seasons. Jerry Concannon stepped down as Springdale girls soccer coach after 12 seasons, and Chuck Debor will no longer be Highlands athletic director after June 30, though he will remain in the classroom.

They will be greatly missed by their respective communities and by the media, too, as they have always been helpful.

While on vacation, I like to nose around and see what’s going on in scholastic sports in other areas. A report in the Savannah Morning News about Georgia separating public and private schools caught my eye.

Since 2012, public and private schools in the Peach State have had separate playoffs, but they competed during the regular season. Starting in 2020-21, however, the regions in Class A will be split along private and public lines.

Private schools are starting to push back, claiming they will have trouble filling out regular-season schedules.

In the Savannah region, for instance, Savannah Christian, Calvary Day and Savannah Country Day schools are struggling to complete regular-season schedules, going as far as considering playing a school 128 miles away.

There are 45 private schools in Georgia’s Class A ranks, according to the report.

Of course, a hot-button issue in Pennsylvania is a push by an overwhelming amount of public schools wanting separate playoffs from private schools.

The PIAA repeatedly has said a 1972 law that brought private schools into the organization can only be changed by an act of the state legislature.

State Rep. Scott Conklin (D-State College) has sponsored a bill doing that. Conklin has 11 co-sponsors on the measure, representing both political parties.

At a recent WPIAL annual meeting, PIAA executives said they hoped Conklin and fellow legislators would give some time to see how the new rules tightening transfers for athletes after 10th grade and a competitive balance formula for schools that dominate specific sports can take effect.

Kountz dies

Freeport graduate and Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame member Gary Kountz died recently at age 77.

Kountz played on Freeport’s WPIAL baseball title team in 1958 and was a key member on the ‘59 team that won its third consecutive section title.

On May 16, 1959, Kountz drove in the winning run in a 3-2 victory over New Kensington to take over first place. A day later, his misplayed bunt led to the tying run in a 2-1 decision over Har-Brack to clinch the section.

Kountz was the key pitcher for Freeport as the Yellowjackets went for a fourth-straight section crown in 1960. The Yellowjackets fell short in their quest, losing to Springdale, 2-0, though Kountz struck out 10.

He later played for Freeport American Legion and in the Armstrong County Merchants League before signing with the Red Sox.

There was no MLB draft at the time.

Kountz pitched in the Boston Red Sox chain until arm troubles ended his career. After baseball, he parlayed his rugged looks into TV commercials as the “Marlboro Man.” If you’re under age 55, you probably can’t remember radio and television cigarette ads before they were banned in 1971.

Many had their own jingles : “You get a lot to like in a Marlboro, filtered flavor, pack or box.”

Or, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

Kountz also farmed his land in South Buffalo Township and did construction work.

He was a 1997 Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

A memorial service for Kountz will be announced at a later date.

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