WPIAL football realignment: Small tweaks or major overhaul? Schools will decide

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020 | 8:30 PM


The WPIAL revealed two football realignments options Wednesday night, one that only tweaks the current format and another that would change the landscape drastically.

Now, WPIAL schools must choose.

Football coaches and administrators gathered in the North Hills Middle School auditorium Wednesday to discuss conference and schedule options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Principals and athletic directors will receive a survey Thursday asking which of the two proposals their school supports.

Each school has a vote.

If schools overwhelmingly support one of the two proposals, the WPIAL will adopt that approach, WPIAL associate executive director Amy Scheuneman said. Those in attendance Wednesday were shown updated conference alignments for both options.

The WPIAL will solicit feedback from schools until Monday. The WPIAL football committee meets Jan. 16, and the WPIAL board will finalize the realignment Jan. 20.

The first proposal — “status quo” — keeps the current format with six classifications divided by enrollment. However, the key change is that teams will have their nonconference opponents handpicked by the WPIAL rather than assigned at random — a lightning rod for criticism in recent years.

Also, nonconference games would be grouped at the start of the season rather than scattered throughout. Otherwise, WPIAL football would look much like the past four seasons.

The second proposal — “regionalization” — would radically divide teams into 12 conferences based primarily on geography. Each 10-team conference would include schools from more than one classification. This option would reduce travel time but forces teams to compete against schools of different sizes.

For example, Class 4A teams Armstrong, Hampton, Knoch and Mars could share a conference with 5A opponents Fox Chapel, North Hills, Pine-Richland and Shaler, as well as 6A opponents North Allegheny and Seneca Valley.

There’s no need for nonconference games in Proposal 2. A points system would determine playoff qualifiers. A victory over a team in a higher classification would earn more points than defeating a team in a lower classification. Teams also earn bonus points for each victory your opponents collect.

An informal survey of coaches and athletic directors in attendance Wednesday favored Proposal 1.

“I think, for the betterment of the group, Proposal 1 works better,” Scheuneman said. “But we’re going to get six champions and six tournaments either way. So if the group decides to go with Proposal 2, that’s fine with me too.”

Scheuneman said other options were considered, such as a five-classification format with Class 6A and 5A combined. Or going a step further and combining 4A with 3A and 2A with A.

Those ideas were ruled out.

The two remaining proposals were tailored using feedback from a nine-question survey in November. The first proposal meets all of the majority-held positions from that survey, Scheuneman said.

In that survey, 57.8% of schools favored keeping the status quo with six classifications. Scheuneman called that “a little bit shocking” because critics lobbied passionately for a return to four classes.

“I’m not super surprised because there’s always the non-vocal majority,” Scheuneman added. “It’s always the vocal minority (that is heard). I know a lot people have benefited from all those classifications.”

On another survey question, 55.2% favored a more regional approach to aligning conferences. For that reason, the WPIAL presented the second option. The proposals were written by Scheuneman, WPIAL president Scott Seltzer and WPIAL vice president Patrick Mannarino.

The writing process took days, Scheuneman said. “I don’t know how many times we rewrote it.”

The conference alignments and schedules presented Wednesday were only tentative, she stressed.

Schools will continue to schedule Week Zero games themselves under both proposals. Other details, such as the number of playoff qualifiers and sites for championship games, won’t be decided until after the PIAA releases updated state playoff brackets.

PROPOSAL 1

Class 6A, Section 1

Baldwin, Canon-McMillan, Central Catholic, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny, Norwin, Seneca Valley

Class 5A, Section 1

Bethel Park, Moon, Peters Township, South Fayette, Upper St. Clair, West Allegheny

Class 5A, Section 2

Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford, Woodland Hills

Class 5A, Section 3

Fox Chapel, Kiski Area, North Hills, Penn Hills, Pine-Richland, Shaler

Class 4A, Section 1

Aliquippa, Beaver, Blackhawk, Chartiers Valley, Hampton, Mars, Montour, New Castle

Class 4A, Section 2

Armstrong, Greensburg Salem, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch, McKeesport, Plum

Class 4A, Section 3

Belle Vernon, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, Uniontown, West Mifflin

Class 3A, Section 1

Ambridge, Avonworth, Central Valley, Hopewell, North Catholic, Quaker Valley

Class 3A, Section 2

Burrell, Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, Freeport, Keystone Oaks, Valley

Class 3A, Section 3

Brownsville, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant, South Allegheny, Southmoreland, South Park, Yough

Class 2A, Section 1

Apollo-Ridge, Ligonier Valley, Serra Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Steel Valley, Summit Academy

Class 2A, Section 2

Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Freedom, Laurel, Mohawk, Neshannock, New Brighton, Riverside

Class 2A, Section 3

Beth-Center, Chartiers-Houston, Charleroi, Frazier, McGuffey, Waynesburg, Washington

Class 2A, Section 4

Brentwood, Carlynton, Seton LaSalle, South Side, Sto-Rox, Western Beaver

Class A, Section 1

Clairton, Fort Cherry, Greensburg Central Catholic, Imani Christian, Jeannette, Leechburg, Riverview, Springdale

Class A, Section 2

Avella, Bentworth, California, Carmichaels, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene

Class A, Section 3

Bishop Canevin, Burgettstown, Cornell, Northgate, OLSH, Rochester, Shenango, Union

PROPOSAL 2

Section 1

Armstrong (4A), Fox Chapel (5A), Hampton (4A), Knoch (4A), Mars (4A), North Allegheny (6A), North Hills (5A), Pine-Richland (5A), Seneca Valley (6A), Shaler (5A)

Section 2

Beaver Falls (2A), Ellwood City (2A), Laurel (2A), Mohawk (2A), Neshannock (2A), Riverside (2A), Rochester (A), Shenango (A), South Side (2A), Union (A)

Section 3

Aliquippa (4A), Ambridge (3A), Beaver (4A), Blackhawk (4A), Central Valley (3A), Freedom (2A), Hopewell (3A), New Brighton (2A), New Castle (4A), Western Beaver (2A)

Section 4

Brentwood (2A), Greensburg Central Catholic (A), Imani Christian (A), Jeannette (A), Leechburg (A), Riverview (A), Serra Catholic (2A), Shady Side Academy (2A), Springdale (A), Steel Valley (2A)

Section 5

Bethel Park (5A), Canon-McMillan (6A), Chartiers Valley (4A), Montour (4A), Moon (5A), Mt. Lebanon (6A), Peters Township (5A), South Fayette (5A), Upper St. Clair (5A), West Allegheny (5A)

Section 6

Brownsville (3A), California (A), Charleroi (2A), Carmichaels (A), Clairton (A), Frazier (2A), Jefferson-Morgan (A), Mapletown (A), Monessen (A), Uniontown (4A)

Section 7

East Allegheny (3A), Elizabeth Forward (3A), Keystone Oaks (3A), McKeesport (4A), Ringgold (4A), South Allegheny (3A), South Park (3A), Thomas Jefferson (4A), Trinity (4A), West Mifflin (4A)

Section 8

Avella (A), Bentworth (A), Beth-Center (2A), Burgettstown (A), Chartiers-Houston (2A), Fort Cherry (A), McGuffey (2A), Washington (2A), Waynesburg (2A), West Greene (A)

Section 9

Avonworth (3A), Bishop Canevin (A), Carlynton (2A), Cornell (A), North Catholic (3A), Northgate (A), OLSH (A), Quaker Valley (3A), Seton LaSalle (2A), Sto-Rox (A)

Section 10

Baldwin (6A), Central Catholic (6A), Franklin Regional (5A), Gateway (5A), Hempfield (6A), Kiski Area (5A), Norwin (6A), Penn Hills (5A), Penn-Trafford (5A), Woodland Hills (5A)

Section 11

Apollo-Ridge (2A), Burrell (3A), Deer Lakes (3A), Derry (3A), Freeport (3A), Highlands (4A), Indiana (4A), Ligonier Valley (2A), Summit Academy (2A), Valley (3A)

Section 12

Belle Vernon (4A), Connellsville (5A), Greensburg Salem (4A), Latrobe (5A), Laurel Highlands (4A), Mt. Pleasant (3A), Plum (4A), Southmoreland (3A), Yough (3A)

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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