WPIAL board blocks Butler from District 10 football playoffs

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 | 1:48 AM

The WPIAL two years ago gave Butler permission to play football in District 10 as an “associate member,” but there now is a dispute about whether the Golden Tornado can qualify for that district’s playoffs.

The WPIAL board says no, they can’t.

“They are welcome to get an independent schedule,” WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said. “They’ve done that, and that’s allowed for. But their playoff route, so to speak, is through the district to which they belong, which is District 7 (WPIAL).”

The WPIAL board voted Tuesday that, as a WPIAL member school, Butler cannot take part in future District 10 football playoffs, even though the team already did so last fall.

Butler athletic director Bill Mylan said the school will appeal the WPIAL decision to the PIAA.

“I just think it’s crazy to give us permission to do something and now want to go back and review it again — after the expectations for our kids have been laid out,” Mylan said. “It would have been one thing if you told us that from the start. But to now take away the incentive that we had — the playoffs — it’s just demoralizing for our kids.”

The decision dates back to the winter of 2019-20.

After enduring consecutive winless seasons, Butler administrators decided to withdraw the football team from WPIAL competition. The Golden Tornado had gone 15-78 combined in the previous decade, so the team hoped to find a more favorable schedule elsewhere with plans to build up its program.

Butler asked for permission to join District 10 as an associate member, but the WPIAL board denied that request at its meeting in December 2019.

However, about a month later, the WPIAL, under then-executive director Tim O’Malley, reversed course and sent a letter to District 10, saying the WPIAL no longer opposed Butler’s request.

“Initially, they weren’t going to allow us,” Mylan said. “And then we got a letter saying the board was allowing us to have an associate membership in District 10. It was all clearly written.”

The WPIAL board on Tuesday questioned whether the letter issued two years ago was sent without the board taking proper action to reverse its earlier denial. Some board members also expressed concerns that letting Butler compete in the playoffs in another district would set a bad precedent.

Butler went 5-5 last season and lost to McDowell, 40-21, in the District 10 playoffs. The district had only three teams in Class 6A, so their playoff game was considered the district finals.

McDowell advanced to the PIAA playoffs.

“We’re taking the best action that we can at this point,” Scheuneman said, “that’s to let them know we do not allow that by formal board action.”

Mylan said winning a district title wasn’t the school’s reason for joining District 10, but offering a chance to make the playoffs is a motivational “carrot” for Butler’s players.

Associate membership in a district is an unofficial status not included in PIAA regulations, but the WPIAL has granted it to teams wanting to join the WPIAL. Altoona, Hollidaysburg and McDowell are former associate members in WPIAL football.

The WPIAL currently has some City League teams as associate members, including the boys and girls soccer teams from Allderdice and Obama Academy. Those teams are eligible for WPIAL playoffs.

However, Butler is not eligible to compete in the WPIAL playoffs, unless the team plays a WPIAL schedule. Scheuneman said the team cannot play District 10 teams or an independent schedule in the regular season and return to the WPIAL for the postseason.

“Part of our requisite for getting into the playoffs,” she said, “is playing through your section.”

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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