WPIAL headed for minor, not major, football realignment

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | 5:37 PM

WPIAL football will have some smaller conferences and handpicked nonconference matchups next season, but schools don’t want a radical overhaul.

A significant majority of WPIAL schools preferred “Proposal 1” for football realignment, a plan that maintains six classifications and separates schools according to enrollment size rather than geography. School administrators were asked last week to choose between two proposals and more than 70% of the responses preferred the “status quo” option over a radical “regionalization” approach, WPIAL associate executive director Amy Scheuneman said.

The schools had until Monday to answer the survey.

The WPIAL football steering committee will focus on that “status quo” proposal when it meets Thursday, Scheuneman said. Updated conferences for the 2020 and 2021 seasons will be finalized at the WPIAL board meeting Jan. 20. The WPIAL presented both proposals to football coaches and school administrators at a meeting Jan. 8 at North Hills.

The first proposal — “status quo” — keeps the current format with six classifications divided by enrollment. However, there are some important changes.

Among the most popular tweaks, nonconference opponents would be handpicked by the WPIAL rather than assigned at random. For example, in the tentative proposal shown last week, defending WPIAL Class 5A champion Gateway would be matched with nonconference opponents McKeesport, Penn Hills, Bethel Park and Pine-Richland, four of the best teams in the WPIAL.

In years past, that randomness created many mismatches and forced some teams to forfeit rather than play a meaningless game against an overwhelming opponent. Now, when possible, the WPIAL will use those nonconference games to match regional rivals and teams of similar abilities. Most teams will have their nonconference games grouped at the start of their schedule rather than scattered throughout.

The proposal presented last week also made some classifications a little more geographically friendly.

The plan would increase both Class 4A and 3A from two conferences to three. Dividing the teams differently eliminated some of the long distances between conference opponents — such as Central Valley and Waynesburg — that both coaches and fans disliked.

The number of teams in Class 5A dropped from 24 to 18, but that classification would still have three conferences under the proposal. The WPIAL could’ve packed the schools into two nine-team conferences but instead recommended three with only six teams apiece.

However, Scheuneman stressed that the information revealed last week was only tentative and could be altered by the WPIAL football committee or board before final approval.

The rejected proposal — “regionalization” — would’ve divided teams into 12 conferences based primarily on geography. Each 10-team conference would’ve included schools from more than one classification. This option would reduce travel time but would’ve forced teams to compete against schools of different sizes.

A points system would have determined playoff qualifiers.

The WPIAL realigns conferences every two years after the PIAA updates enrollment numbers.


NOTE: The WPIAL revealed a tentative conference alignment for Proposal 1. This list could change when the WPIAL football steering committee meets Thursday.

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

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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