WPIAL rejects Butler’s compromise, leaving football team ineligible for District 10 playoffs

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Monday, March 14, 2022 | 7:00 PM


The WPIAL rejected a compromise offered Monday by Butler’s administration that would’ve let the school’s football team play in the District 10 playoffs for the next two seasons.

The plan proposed by Butler promised that the Golden Tornado would return to WPIAL competition in two years, but the WPIAL board voted to deny the request. Butler can compete against District 10 opponents in the 2022 and ‘23 regular seasons as planned, but the team remains ineligible for postseason competition, WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said.

School district representatives previously said Butler may pursue legal action.

Butler left WPIAL football two years ago for an independent schedule with no time frame to return. School administrators had hoped a favorable schedule as an “associate member” in District 10 would put the program back on its feet after consecutive winless seasons in 2018 and ‘19.

The WPIAL doesn’t oppose teams playing independent schedules but does want to avoid a situation where schools can pick and choose an easier path to the PIAA playoffs elsewhere.

“If the reason for leaving is for athletic competitiveness, there are a lot of struggling programs in our district that continue to work, make the playoffs and improve their programs within our district,” Scheuneman said.

She said the WPIAL board’s sentiment hadn’t changed since Jan. 18, when it voted to block Butler from taking part in the District 10 playoffs. The WPIAL board on Monday discussed the proposal in executive session.

The PIAA board held an appeal hearing for Butler last month and upheld the WPIAL’s earlier decision. During that hearing, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the results would be detrimental to the PIAA if teams were allowed to leave one PIAA district for an easier playoff route in another.

“Why would we even have districts then?” Lombardi said in the Feb. 23 appeal hearing. “It seems to me — and this isn’t a shot at another district — you’re saying one district may be a little more competitive than the other, and you want the choice of going where you want to go. Other (school) districts don’t have that choice throughout our state. Why are you different?”

Lombardi suggested Butler should instead consider moving all sports to District 10.

Butler’s situation started in the winter of 2019-20.

The football team went 15-78 combined over the previous decade, so the school hoped to find an easier 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. Scheuneman has since said that letter by O’Malley was sent without WPIAL board approval.

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 also the district final. Had Butler won, the team would’ve qualified for the state tournament.

School administrators have said winning a district title isn’t the reason the team joined District 10, but they’ve insisted that reaching the playoffs is an important incentive for a team trying to rebuild. However, after seeing Butler in the playoffs, the WPIAL board took action in January to ban the team from future postseason games.

“One of the goals that the leaders of our football team set for the program is to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year,” Butler coach Eric Christy told the WPIAL board on Monday. “Currently, it is not possible, and our players just don’t understand. They’ve asked us what they’ve done wrong and we don’t have a good answer for them.”

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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