North Allegheny AD Bozzuto sees future Class 6A football alignment with larger field

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Saturday, January 22, 2022 | 11:01 AM


North Allegheny athletic director Bob Bozzuto has a forward-thinking mindset when it comes to football conference realignment. The ink barely has dried on WPIAL plans for the next two seasons, but he’s ready to start thinking about 2024 and ’25.

“We need to think outside of the box,” Bozzuto said. “It’s a perfect time now to look at the next two-year cycle.”

With time on their side, he’s hopeful a creative arrangement can be found for the future of the big-school classification. However, for the upcoming two seasons — 2022 and ’23 — the WPIAL will have only five teams in Class 6A football: North Allegheny, Mt. Lebanon, Seneca Valley, Central Catholic and Canon-McMillan.

Each team gets four conference games.

Bozzuto had suggested the WPIAL join Class 6A with neighboring districts 6 and 10 to form an 11- or 12-team Western Pennsylvania league that would stretch from Erie to Pittsburgh to State College, but in hindsight believes there wasn’t enough time to really explore a change that big for next fall.

But he hasn’t given up hope for 2024.

“Let’s combine up and have a regular season,” said Bozzuto, who spoke with some athletic directors in District 6 and 10. “And then those teams, if they want to, can compete in their own district tournaments. The bottom line is, the regular season is important.”

In the meantime, North Allegheny and the rest of 6A will make the best of the regular season ahead. Along with four conference games, WPIAL Class 6A teams are expected to receive four or five nonconference contests against 5A opponents.

With an odd number of WPIAL football schools, one team somewhere in the overall schedule will have an open date each week. North Allegheny is helping to ease that problem by playing Erie’s McDowell on Sept. 9 — occupying one of those open dates. Separately, the Tigers scheduled Allderdice in Week Zero.

Both are Class 6A opponents.

“There’s no advantage for us to play a 5A team,” Bozzuto said. “There are many great 5A teams. We’re not saying we’re better than the best 5A team. We’re not saying that at all. We respect them. We feel that we’re better than most.”

Understandably, as the WPIAL’s largest school, North Allegheny has a different perspective than most.

The newest PIAA enrollment numbers list North Allegheny with 1,036 boys in grades 9-11. That’s nearly twice as many as the largest WPIAL Class 5A team: Norwin has 547.

That enrollment disparity isn’t as large for other WPIAL 6A schools. Seneca Valley has 830, Mt. Lebanon has 703, Central Catholic has 567 and Canon-McMillan has 563, so not everyone is as opposed to playing 5A opponents.

The WPIAL in recent weeks explored combining Class 6A and 5A into one big-school classification for next fall. However, the WPIAL rejected that idea when results from a league survey showed most Class 5A schools didn’t want to share a conference with 6A opponents, said WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman.

But the survey showed Class 5A teams would play 6A in nonconference matchups. The WPIAL is expected to release next season’s schedules in February.

“We had enough schools indicate that they’re willing to actively play and compete against those 6A schools that we can have everybody accommodated,” Scheuneman said.

The underlying issue with Class 6A is that the majority of big schools are in the eastern half of the state. PIAA District 1 alone, which includes suburban Philadelphia schools, has more than 30 football teams in Class 6A. Combined, the four PIAA districts that make up Western Pennsylvania have 12.

But Bozzuto doesn’t want to scrap the six-class format the PIAA adopted in 2016.

“I know people say they don’t like 6A. Well, I like 6A,” Bozzuto said. “It works in every sport that we have, except we have a difficulty in football.”

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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