WPIAL delays release of football schedules over ‘unique situation’ with Aliquippa

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Thursday, February 3, 2022 | 2:48 PM


The WPIAL decided not to release new football schedules this week because of a “unique situation” facing one of its schools.

The WPIAL didn’t name the school in an email sent Thursday to athletic directors, but the situation involves Aliquippa, which wants to play in Class 3A rather than 4A. The WPIAL had planned to release schedules Friday for the 2022 and ‘23 seasons.

However, the PIAA hasn’t yet sent a written reply to Aliquippa regarding last week’s appeal hearing that kept the team in Class 4A, so the WPIAL held off finalizing its plans.

That PIAA letter is expected soon.

What action Aliquippa might take next depends on what that letter says, said Aliquippa superintendent Phillip Woods.

“I’m willing to take this as far as I need to take it,” he said. “If the appeal letter doesn’t read right, we’re not going to stop until we’ve exhausted due process for our kids.”

The WPIAL said release of schedules is delayed “until further notice.”

The uncertainty stems from the PIAA competitive-balance rule, which Aliquippa argued was flawed at last week’s appeal hearing with the PIAA board.

Attorneys for the school insisted that the rule as written doesn’t specifically address teams voluntarily playing in a higher classification, such as Aliquippa. The Quips have a small-school enrollment that qualifies them for Class A football, but the team had voluntarily played in 3A before the competitive-balance rule took effect.

In 2020, the PIAA rule forced Aliquippa up to Class 4A, despite complaints from the school. Now, after winning the state Class 4A title last fall, the Quips were facing an unwanted promotion to 5A.

Aliquippa appealed that promotion and won, but it also asked to return to Class 3A, arguing that the PIAA had misapplied the rule from the beginning. Aliquippa says the team shouldn’t have been moved up in 2020, since the team already was playing two classes above its actual enrollment.

The PIAA board deliberated in executive session before voting to leave Aliquippa in 4A, without addressing the school’s request for 3A.

That has Woods eager to read how the PIAA board reached its decision.

“This is a safety issue,” he said. “I’m not concerned about winning. But when I see what Southern Columbia is allowed to do, that gives me more energy to fight.”

Southern Columbia has won five consecutive PIAA Class 2A titles, but the public school in Columbia County has avoided promotion under the competitive-balance rule, which measures both postseason success and transfers added. Southern Columbia successfully demonstrated to the PIAA that the team didn’t add three or more transfers, the threshold for promotion.

“People will say, ‘You just won the 4A championship, you should be good (with playing 4A),’” Woods said. “But then I look at Southern Columbia, and I’m not.”

The PIAA held its third and final competitive-balance appeal hearing Wednesday for Cathedral Prep of Erie. Cathedral Prep was allowed to remain in Class 5A. Last week, the PIAA board let Wyomissing remain in 3A.

The PIAA was expected to send out written responses to the schools involved once all appeal hearings were completed.

Prior to Aliquippa’s hearing, the WPIAL created multiple versions of its schedules with the Quips in Class 5A, 4A and 3A. Once the issue is resolved, the WPIAL is prepared to move forward.

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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