Realignment sends several Hampton sports teams down in class
Saturday, January 22, 2022 | 11:01 AM
Seven Hampton athletics teams will be getting new scenery for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 sports seasons.
The PIAA enrollment-based parameters, released earlier this month, will drop the programs down one classification, including boys basketball, baseball and wrestling.
Four girls teams — softball, tennis, cross country and swimming — will also be dropping down to compete against schools closer to Hampton’s size.
Football will remain a Class 4A program.
“We kind of saw this coming a little bit,” Hampton athletic director Bill Cardone said. “Our population was decreasing, but we didn’t really know where the PIAA was going to set the numbers. So we kind of had to wait for that. And we weren’t particularly sure in what sports we would drop.”
Hampton’s enrollment in grades 9-11 dropped significantly from the realignment two years ago, mainly because of more consistent methods in counting vo-tech students.
According to PIAA guidelines, only 10% of students attending alternate education options, such as vo-tech schools or home schooling, are counted toward a school’s enrollment total. Those students are typically eligible to play athletics at Hampton, but for instance, Cardone said only “a handful” of students who attend A.W. Beattie Career Center also play sports for the Talbots.
When the PIAA 10% formula was factored in — many schools statewide had been counting incorrectly — Hampton’s boys enrollment dropped to 290, down 17.1% from 350 two years ago, and the girls settled in at 309, down 18.9% from 381 in 2020.
“I think a lot of people’s numbers are a lot lower because of the way that they were counted this year,” Cardone said. “I don’t think a lot of people knew about it, and there were some questions asked about it this year and then it was clarified.”
Hampton coaches had mixed reactions to their team’s dropping in classification, which offers a more equitable competitive balance but can also provide a lesser caliber of opponent and strip the program of its natural rivals.
“Immediately, I thought about our longtime rivals we’ve had in the section, Mars especially being one of them,” said softball coach Ron Fedell, whose team is dropping to Class 4A. “Hopefully, we will continue to play them nonsection. But it’s a shame that a school is going to lose a traditional rival.
“To be honest, we embraced that (big-school) challenge. I know some coaches always want to complain and talk about how there is not a level playing field. But … we never shied away from that competition, and I think it brings out the best in us.”
Coaches for wrestling and baseball welcome the class drop. Both programs are either rebuilding or have seen a decrease in numbers.
Hampton baseball coach Kellen Wheeler, whose team is dropping to 4A, had only 27 players try out last year to fill the varsity and JV rosters.
“It’s going to be good for the program,” he said. “The numbers of what we have that are trying out for the team … are very low for baseball at Hampton right now. To that point, it’s going to help out a lot.”
First-year wrestling coach Nick Endres, whose team is rebuilding after losing some top wrestlers to graduation in recent years, said the move to Class 2A “makes sense for our program.”
“For where we are as a program … rebuilding a little bit, it can only help our program grow numbers and be at a better playing field for our team, numbers-wise and competition-wise,” Endres said.
The girls cross country and girls swimming teams are dropping to Class 2A, where they will join their boys counterparts, who moved down two years ago.
The reunion will ease some scheduling headaches and allow Hampton to compete in a Class 2A section instead of a Class 3A section caused by the split schedule.
The new conference realignments will be announced later this year and take effect for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.
Some of the boys basketball team’s likely Class 4A section foes include North Catholic, Highlands, Knoch, Freeport and Avonworth.
The baseball team’s likely section foes include Kiski Area, North Catholic, Highlands and Knoch.
Cardone predicts the rivalries in the new-look sections will take care of themselves.
“I think the WPIAL and committee do a good job of trying to keep those natural rivalries,” he said. “When you fall (in classification), I think those natural rivalries are either still there or you just form new rivalries with the people that you have.”
Here are the Hampton teams that will be moving down in classification for 2022-23 and ‘23-24 based on enrollment figures
Baseball 4A 5A
Boys basketball 4A 5A
Girls XC 2A A
Girls swimming 2A 3A
Softball 4A 5A
Tennis 2A 3A
Wrestling 2A 3A
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