Transfers will force Aliquippa football to Class 4A, pending appeal to PIAA

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019 | 9:28 AM


Aliquippa ranks among the smallest football schools in the WPIAL, with only four more boys than Jeannette and nine fewer than Shenango.

But while those two schools will play in Class A next fall, the PIAA on Monday informed Aliquippa that it must compete in Class 4A against the likes of Thomas Jefferson. For comparison, the Quips have 117 boys in grades 9-11 and Thomas Jefferson has 347.

Aliquippa athletic director Brandon LeDonne said the school will appeal and ask the PIAA to reconsider.

“Our guys would probably love to go play TJ,” LeDonne said. “If we were playing Week Zero and all things were equal, we’d line up and play with some teams in 4A — probably all of them. But after five, six, seven weeks, it would be a clear disadvantage for our kids to be able to hold up against that kind of grind.”

Eight football teams statewide could be impacted by a new PIAA competitive-balance rule that targets programs with both postseason success and too many transfers. Aliquippa already was voluntarily playing in Class 3A but the rule doesn’t take that into consideration.

Postseason success and transfers are counted 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 Quips accumulated six points by winning the state Class 3A title last season and reaching the WPIAL championship this year. The PIAA then compared eligibility lists and transfer records from the past three years and sent LeDonne the names of approximately 20 possible transfers.

He said the list inaccurately included some players who weren’t transfers.

“I think some of the kids on our list are kids who hadn’t played the year before and some things like that,” LeDonne said. “Some of our transfers are kids who were with our district K-9 or K-8 and because of some circumstances had to move and come back. I know they’re still transfers, but they’ve really been our kids.”

The PIAA administration, while writing this rule, specifically discussed how this competitive-balance formula would affect teams like Aliquippa that already played in a higher classification. They decided that team would be forced up another class, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said earlier this month.

“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.”

This new rule tops PIAA efforts to ease competitive-balance concerns and quiet calls for separate public and private school playoffs. According to the PIAA, the seven other teams in position to move up are Farrell, Wilmington, Southern Columbia, Archbishop Wood, Lackawanna Trail, Cathedral Prep and Imhotep Charter.

The PIAA formula awards one success point for reaching Week 12 (PIAA first round), two for Week 13 (quarterfinals), three for Week 14 (semifinals) or four for Week 15 (finals). The PIAA considered the WPIAL Class 3A championship as the equivalent of a PIAA quarterfinal.

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.

“I talked with Farrell this morning to get a little insight into their situation,” LeDonne said, “because they’re really similar to 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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