Going up? PIAA could force Southern Columbia, others into higher football classification

Saturday, December 7, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Southern Columbia has no equal in Class 2A football, a lesson Avonworth learned Friday.

The small-school power celebrated its fourth PIAA title in five years at Hersheypark Stadium, but the record-setting state champion and a few other top football teams might be forced into a higher classification next season.

Archbishop Wood, Cathedral Prep, Farrell, Imhotep Charter, Lackawanna Trail and Wilmington also could be at risk.

The PIAA is close to revealing for the first time which football teams face mandatory promotions under a new rule that targets programs with postseason success and too many transfers. The results will be released within the next few weeks, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said.

If a football team accumulates at least six “success points” and received three or more transfers, it will be forced to compete against larger schools in 2020 and ’21.

“We’re excited about it,” Lombardi said. “We think it will be good.”

This new rule is a linchpin in the PIAA efforts to ease competitive-balance concerns and quiet calls for separate public and private school playoffs. The PIAA created the competitive-balance formula two years ago and began counting points and transfers with plans to move teams up next season.

It’s used for football and basketball.

“You’ll see some results,” Lombardi said. “It won’t be 100% perfect but I think it will be much more palatable. It’s something that has a lot of merit because it’s blind to what type of school (public or private). It addresses all schools equally.”

The PIAA tightened the formula in October.

A handful of football teams accumulated more than six success points, the threshold for promotion, so now the PIAA has started to count the transfers each program received in the past two years. Teams must meet both criteria — points and transfers — to be moved.

Too many points or too many transfers alone won’t cause a team to move up.

The PIAA awards four success points to teams that reach the state finals, three for the semifinals, two for the quarterfinals and one for the first round.

Southern Columbia, for example, has eight success points after reaching the PIAA finals twice in two years. Now, the PIAA will send them and others a verification form to count transfers, Lombardi said. The PIAA also will dig into the transfer data it collected over the last few years.

“We believe that they’ve had some transfers,” Lombardi said of Southern Columbia. “We’re trying to verify what the number is.”

Southern Columbia defeated WPIAL champion Avonworth, 74-7, in the PIAA Class 2A final Friday. The Tigers set records for points and margin of victory in a PIAA championship.

Farrell and Archbishop Wood have earned eight success points, and Lackawanna Trail has seven. Cathedral Prep, Imhotep Charter and Wilmington earned six.

St. Joseph’s Prep also has eight but already competes in Class 6A.

The PIAA will complete the same process for basketball in March after the state championships in that sport.

A question that arose during the process was, how does this affect schools that already are voluntarily playing in a higher classification? For example, a team that is Class A in size but competed the previous year in Class 3A?

That team would be forced to 4A, Lombardi said.

“If they have the success and transfers, they’ll go up from their competition class of last year,” Lombardi said. “That was the original intent.”

That rule could impact a team such as defending state boys basketball champion Kennedy Catholic, which won the Class 6A title last season. The team is Class A in size and asked the PIAA to drop down to Class 2A for the 2020-21 season.

If Kennedy Catholic collects six success points and crosses the transfer threshold, it could be forced to remain in Class 6A. The threshold for basketball is one or more transfers.

The PIAA allows teams to appeal if they can show they don’t have “a competitive advantage over like-sized schools.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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