WPIAL rules Birch brothers ineligible after transfer from Jeannette to Gateway

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021 | 2:00 PM


Two high-profile transfers now are in limbo.

The WPIAL board voted Wednesday to deny athletic eligibility to brothers Brett and Brad Birch, football standouts who transferred last month from Jeannette to Gateway.

The WPIAL’s decision was based solely on paperwork, executive director Amy Scheuneman said, after Jeannette administrators flagged the transfers as football-related. Gateway will request a hearing with the WPIAL to appeal that decision, athletic director/football coach Don Holl said.

The hearing likely will be May 3.

“We feel that there’s quite a bit of rumor and social media information out there,” Holl said. “We think, when it’s all said and done, it’ll be pretty clear that there’s no athletic intent involved here.”

If the WPIAL decision stands, the brothers will be ineligible for regular-season and postseason competition for one year from their date of transfer. That would cost Brett Birch his senior season and Brad Birch his sophomore year.

“They have the opportunity to appeal, to give their rationale for transferring,” Scheuneman said. “The board denied it based on an indication from the sending school (Jeannette) that it was athletically motivated in part or in whole.”

PIAA rules prohibit transferring for athletics.

The boys’ father, Bob, has said the move was not related to football. He has a new job that requires travel, so he would prefer his sons live with their mother in the Gateway School District.

The parents are divorced.

“It’s a family-related financial issue,” Bob Birch said in March. “I just want what is best for the boys. My job requires some travel, and I can’t be (home) all the time. Sometimes financial issues arise, and family takes precedence over people wanting to win football games.”

Brad Birch is a freshman quarterback who already has a scholarship offer from Oregon, and junior Brett Birch is a standout wide receiver and defensive back.

Both players earned all-state honors in the fall after leading the Jayhawks to the program’s 10th WPIAL title and a PIAA runner-up finish in Class A.

Brad Birch was the first freshman to start at quarterback for the Jayhawks. He threw for 1,676 yards and 30 touchdowns. Brett Birch had 46 receptions for 669 yards and 11 touchdowns.

They could join a Gateway football program that has won two WPIAL Class 5A titles in the past four years and reached the state finals in 2017.

Any time an athlete switches schools, administrators are required to complete a PIAA transfer waiver form.

That form defines athletic motivation as “those transfers which would not have occurred but for a desire of the student or the student’s family (1) to gain additional playing time; (2) to play for a particular school, coach or team; (3) to avoid either playing for, or athletic sanctions imposed by, a particular school, coach or team; and/or (4) to gain increased media or college exposure.”

If found ineligible at Gateway, transferring back to Jeannette would not make them eligible.

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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