WPIAL willing to revert football back to 4 classes

Monday, December 17, 2018 | 8:53 PM

The WPIAL is ready to return football to four classifications, if that’s what its membership wants.

“Six classifications isn’t working in the sport of football, specifically,” executive director Tim O’Malley told the WPIAL board at Monday’s meeting in Green Tree.

O’Malley recently met with two groups of school administrators — Fayette, Greene and Washington County superintendents, and principals from the Beaver County-based Midwestern Athletic Conference — and he said both were unhappy with the current football format.

“The reasons it’s not working are, No. 1, there are more blowouts than we ever had before,” O’Malley said. “There’s a tremendous amount of lost interest, nobody goes and watches. And there are no more rivalries. The people that are beating you mercilessly are from a different county.

“But we predicted this four years ago.”

So, if asked, the WPIAL administration is willing to revert football back to four classifications with geographically friendlier conferences.

However, it’s no quick fix.

The soonest the WPIAL could return football to four classes would be the 2020 season, after this current two-year cycle ends. And, O’Malley strongly stressed, that’s only if a majority of WPIAL schools request the switch.

“We can fix this,” O’Malley said, “if the schools are willing to go that route.”

The decision doesn’t need to be made until late in 2019, after schools submit updated enrollment numbers that fall. Before then, the WPIAL will solicit feedback from its member schools.

The switch to four classes would likely affect only football. Other sports would remain as they are.

When the WPIAL surveyed schools in 2015, a majority favored following the PIAA’s lead and expanding football to six classes. The alternative the WPIAL pitched then was a hybrid system that would’ve maintained four classes locally and used a points system to determine the six PIAA qualifiers.

After experiencing the six classes for three football seasons, WPIAL administrators believe sentiment has shifted — both locally and across the state.

Now, they think, a majority might prefer four.

At this month’s PIAA board meeting, representatives from suburban Philadelphia suggested reverting football to four classes statewide, WPIAL president Scott Seltzer said. The PIAA competition committee will discuss the issue at its next meeting.

If the PIAA were to revert football to four classes for the 2020 season, the WPIAL would surely follow suit. If the PIAA sticks with six classes, then the WPIAL could have a decision to make.

“There are no promises (to revert to four),” O’Malley said. “Whatever it is we may eventually evolve into would be at the request of the schools to fix it. … If they want to go back to what it was like in four classes, we can do that.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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