WPIAL says Butler football must take conference schedule, reviving years-long dispute

Tuesday, February 20, 2024 | 12:11 AM

A seemingly settled dispute between Butler and the PIAA was rekindled Monday when the WPIAL said the school’s football team must play a conference schedule next fall.

The team planned to opt out of WPIAL competition and play an independent schedule, Butler athletic director Bill Mylan said last month, a preference he reiterated Monday. But the WPIAL rejected that idea by including Butler as one of eight Class 6A teams on its conference alignment for the 2024 and ’25 seasons.

“The PIAA said they are to get a football schedule from us,” WPIAL administrator Vince Sortino said.

That means Butler must face North Allegheny, Central Catholic and the five other big-school teams in the WPIAL.

The disagreement stems from a settlement Butler negotiated with the PIAA last March. At the time, the Butler football team was expected to return to the WPIAL this fall after one final season in District 10.

Butler has since decided otherwise.

“There’s a legal agreement between the PIAA and Butler, and in that agreement it says Butler will accept a schedule,” WPIAL executive director Scott Seltzer said. “To us, we take that to mean we provide a schedule.”

Seltzer made clear that giving Butler a football schedule was a PIAA directive.

Mylan said school administrators didn’t believe the long-struggling football program was ready to compete with WPIAL 6A opponents again, so he assembled an independent schedule with games this fall against Shaler, Connellsville, Meadville, Hollidaysburg, University High of Morgantown, W.Va., and a couple of City League schools.

Now, Butler’s football future could become a legal matter again.

“It wouldn’t shock me,” Mylan said. “I would hope it wouldn’t come to that, if we can do what’s best for the interest of kids and the program.”

Mylan said the matter was in the hands of the school district’s solicitor.

Butler left WPIAL football four years ago after consecutive 0-10 seasons to find a favorable schedule against District 10 teams. Butler’s record in the WPIAL was 40-149 since 2000.

The team saw measured success in the past four seasons with 13 wins combined. However, the PIAA took actions that forced the Butler football team to end its so-called “associate membership” in District 10, first by trying to ban the Golden Tornado from the District 10 playoffs — which led to a lawsuit.

The PIAA since changed it bylaws to restrict teams that want to compete in a neighboring PIAA district, as Butler did. Butler can’t use that option anymore, but Mylan said the school will continue to pursue an independent schedule.

“That’s been our intention since the PIAA changed their bylaws,” he said.

Choosing to ignore the schedule assigned by the WPIAL isn’t an option, said Sortino, the league’s chief operating officer. He said the WPIAL and PIAA could count the missed games as forfeits. Football teams are limited to 10 total contests in the regular season.

“Every team we give a schedule to, they have to play,” Sortino said. “If you choose not to play a game we give you in any sport … then it still counts as a point toward your maximum allowed games.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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