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Expansion of football classifications passes first reading

The subject of expanding high school football classifications in Pennsylvania passed its first reading Wednesday at the PIAA Board of Directors’ meeting in Mechanicsburg.

The board passed four proposals, each with two methods for dividing schools, PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said after the meeting.

The state’s governing body for high school sports is considering whether it should change the postseason format, which currently divides schools into four classifications. An initial proposal in January by District 9 representative Bob Tonkin suggested a move to six classifications would narrow the enrollment gap between schools competing for district and state championships.

Any change to the PIAA bylaws must pass three readings.

“There’s a proposal we’re looking at to include this for all sports, but first we want to investigate football,” Lombardi said.

The state last entertained expanding football classifications in 2009, but the proposal was voted down in the final stage. The next board of directors’ meeting is July 22.

A second reading could be held then and October, but Lombardi said the board is not in a rush to approve or disapprove any change. The state reclassifies schools based on enrollment figures every two years. The next cycle begins with the 2016-17 school year, and Lombardi estimated discussions could last until January.

“The board has time to do what they feel is in the best interest of the membership,” he said.

Wednesday’s 3 1/2-hour meeting also included a rejection of altering the state high school basketball tournaments and a change to eliminate possible ties in the state field hockey championship game.

The state basketball tournament issue centered around an East and West separation of the brackets. In smaller classifications, such as AA and A, tournaments are bracketed for East vs. West finals. However, the boys’ Class AAAA and AAA state championship games this year drew criticism for being contested between all Philadelphia-based District 12 schools. The basketball steering committee recommended a change for East-West separation, but the executive board rejected it by an 18-11 vote.

Lombardi pointed to a majority of Class AAAA schools in the eastern side of Pennsylvania as a reason why the executive board rejected the steering committee’s recommendation. The steering committee passed its East-West recommendation by an 8-5 vote, Lombardi said. Of the 182 boys’ teams in Class AAAA, 142 reside in eastern districts (Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 11 and 12).

“To do that,” Lombardi said of a change, “it upsets your bracket.”

The PIAA’s unanimous approval to add penalty strokes, if needed, in the state field hockey championship comes after last November’s Class AAA title game ended in a 1-1 draw between Palmyra and Penn Manor. Through last fall’s title game, co-champions were declared if a tie could not be broken after two overtime periods. Now all field hockey games in the state tournaments can go to two 15-minute overtimes and then the game can be decided by penalty strokes.


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