PIAA denies Aliquippa request to remain in Class 3A football

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | 3:03 PM


The PIAA competitive-balance rule seems particularly harsh on lower-income communities like Aliquippa, said athletic director Brandon LeDonne, where residents tend to be more transient.

“Parents change jobs, guardianship changes, living situations change,” LeDonne said. “Sometimes they change like some of us change underwear. It’s kind of unfortunate.”

The new rule targets postseason success and student transfers, and will force the Quips to play football in Class 4A next season against schools three times their enrollment size. The PIAA executive staff on Monday rejected Aliquippa’s request to stay in Class 3A, where the team played the past four seasons.

Aliquippa’s administration can appeal that decision to the entire PIAA board, which meets next week. LeDonne said they’ll likely appeal since the Quips have a Class A enrollment and already voluntarily “play up” to Class 3A.

“We don’t want to seem like we’re bellyaching,” LeDonne said, “but it’s really hard to find any logic in the purpose of this rule.”

The rule was a linchpin in PIAA efforts to ease competitive-balance concerns and quiet calls for separate public- and private-school playoffs. It’s intended to prevent powerhouse programs from reloading their rosters unscathed.

This is the first year teams are forced to move up.

PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said he understands the low-income argument but disagrees with any suggestion that the rule is discriminatory.

“We certainly don’t see it that way,” said Lombardi, noting that both public- and private-school teams are facing mandatory promotions. “These (transfers) aren’t people that are moving out and back. These are new, incoming transfers.

“I understand the argument but that’s not what we’re seeing on the eligibility lists,” he added. “These aren’t kids who are going here and there. These are people who are moving in, staying and playing.”

Eight football teams statewide face mandatory promotions next season. Farrell, Wilmington, Southern Columbia, Archbishop Wood, Lackawanna Trail, Cathedral Prep and Imhotep Charter are the others.

The PIAA rule measures postseason success and transfers over a two-year period. Teams with six “success points” and three or more transfers are required to move up one classification from the previous season.

The rule makes no exception for teams already playing up voluntarily.

The Quips accumulated six points by winning the state Class 3A title in 2018 and reaching the WPIAL championship this past year. The team also surpassed the transfer threshold, according to the PIAA.

The PIAA initially presented Aliquippa with the names of 20 possible transfers gleaned from 2017, ’18 and ’19 eligibility lists. Not all were accurate but around eight remain in dispute, LeDonne said.

“Even our so-called transfers, a lot of them are kids who started kindergarten with us,” LeDonne said. “More than a lot of them. Nearly all of them.”

If Aliquippa can’t satisfactorily explain away enough to drop below the three-transfer threshold, the school might still ask the PIAA board for leniency.

“Hopefully we can get close to that (threshold) and make the case that we’re participating two classifications up,” LeDonne said. “(The situation) is still pretty gray but not looking very good for us.”

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

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