As Devon Prep athletic director Jason Fisher and the school’s administration pondered its future, they sought a change of scenery from the Bicentennial Athletic League.
It wasn’t due to the lack of competition or the constantly rotating cast of programs in the BAL, Fisher said Wednesday. Instead, a deeper connection attracted the school to the Philadelphia Catholic League.
The league’s Board of Governors announced Wednesday that Devon Prep has been accepted to join in the 2018-19 academic year.
“We were very enticed by the fact that the Catholic League mission coincides with our school’s,” Fisher, in his third year as the AD, said. “That’s why we looked there. With the BAL, we were happy with the competition level of the league. But there was nothing in common keeping the league together outside of athletics. The Catholic League would bring more of a mission to add value to our student-athletes.”
Devon Prep is the first school to join the Catholic League since Lansdale Catholic bolted from the Pioneer Athletic Conference in 2008. Devon is the 18th school in the Catholic League, composed of 10 co-ed institutions, three schools for girls and five, including Devon Prep, for boys only.
The announcement was the product of several years of inquiries, including investigations of leagues in the more immediate geographic area to Devon Prep. But ultimately, the level of competition and the prestige of the Catholic League won out.
“I know a lot of people will think we made this move for athletics,” Fisher said. “But at end of the day, athletics is part of it, but it’s not only reason.”
Devon Prep, affiliated with the Piarist Order, operates independent of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as does fellow Catholic League members St. Joseph’s Prep (Jesuit) and La Salle (Christian Brothers). It is the only Catholic League program in Chester County. (Bishop Shanahan, which is an Archdiocesan school, competes in the Ches-Mont League.)
Despite the exclusive status, the school’s assessment found more geographic proximity on balance to PCL schools, with Archbishop Carroll, Cardinal O’Hara and Bonner & Prendergast not far away. Fisher hopes new rivalries will blossom organically by sport.
The Tide sponsors 10 sports, with crew to be added either this year or next. Football is not among them. Its most recent success has come in baseball, where Devon Prep captured the 2014 PIAA Class A title.
Last year, Devon Prep co-operatively sponsored lacrosse with Delco Christian, a team that qualified for the District 1 Class 2A tournament. Fisher said that arrangement will continue this season, but with the transfer from District 1 to District 12, the status is up in the air after that.
Devon Prep joined the Bicentennial nine years ago after the breakup of the Southern Chester County League, with most of the schools matriculating to the Ches-Mont. The Bicentennial is a broad patchwork, encompassing small public schools as well as private and Christian schools. In basketball, for instance, the classifications run from Holy Ghost Prep in Class 5A to Christian Academy in Class A.
Fisher, who also coaches the Tide basketball team, is particularly excited for the move in that sport, where he’s joining one of the best leagues in Pennsylvania.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “There will be challenges every night. It’s arguably one of the best basketball leagues in the country and it seems to keep getting better. It’s definitely a challenge and very exciting from a basketball coach’s perspective.”