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Written by: Billy Splain on Friday, January 24th, 2020
The new rules are simple, if you accumulate six points in a two-year period and have more than three transfers your team will play in the next classification higher. Those rules were passed by the PIAA in July 2018 in response to the outcry across the state to curb transfers and recruiting. Simply put if a team reaches the semi finals it gets two points and if it reaches the finals it gets four points. When a team accumulates six points in a two year, they move up to the next classification. Originally The threshold for the success factor was five transfers but in July 2019 the PIAA adjusted that rule making it three transfers. This past Wednesday in Mechanicsburg, the rules were put to the test for the first time. Southern Columbia, Aliquippa, Farrell, Wilmington, and Archbishop Wood had hearings to present their case that they should not move up in class.
Right out of the gate yesterday Wilmington pointed out the flaws in being selected as one of those teams. Administrators pointed out that the PIAA was to use transfers in a two year cycle but they were using three years, so the PIAA agreed to limit transfers received in 2018-19 and 2019 1920. With that decision it cleared the path for both Southern Columbia and Wilmington to remain in the 2A classification for the next two years cycle.
Up Next was Farrell who argued that they excepted four transfers under the original assumption that they will be allowed five. Farrell’s request to remain in 1A was denied and they will move up to the 2A classification next year. Archbishop Wood was the last of the appeals for the day and their appeal was also denied. Mary Hawkins, the Vikings principal, had made several arguments which included that they voluntarily play up to class 5A despite having a 4A enrollment. She also believes that two of the transfers were unique in their circumstances so they should not be used. Hawkins also mentioned safety as a concern. Ultimately the PIAA denied their request and the Vikings will move up the 6A in 2020.
Also moving up due to the success factor were both Imhotep Charter and Aliquippa. Imhotep never entered a challenge and will play 5A next year. Aliquippa cancelled their appeal before the meeting and will play at the 4A level.
PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz thinks the new rule and appeals process works, but can see a need for some tweaks. “I think it went VERY well considering when we first passed the rule the intent was to identify those very successful schools who have quite a few transfers coming in and that’s what we got. We originally identified 8 schools like that and 5 of them appealed, six of the eight are going to be moved up.”
A lot of talk surrounded the “natural break” process. Melissa feels that a lot of people misunderstand what that actually means. “They just think that anything before ninth grade is a free-for-all and that’s not really the case. When a student at the Jr High level finishes the highest level, let’s say for instance Cocalico middle school, they naturally progress right into Cocalico high school. There’s a natural High School to finish their next four years, whereas you have a private high school that only goes to elementary or seventh grade, that’s the highest that school goes. There is no continuing there so they have to choose a public or private school. That’s why it’s unique from public to public. If someone from Shamokin jr high moves to Southern Columbia high school, however, that’s not the natural matriculation. The bottom line is, going into ninth grade is the issue, we are trying to limit transfers heading into the sophomore year.”
Overall, some tweaks do need to be added and Mertz admits that. “We do have to be careful because we are watched very closely with this. Archbishop Wood argued that they play up voluntarily and should be exempt. The issue is they were successful there. It’s not like they moved up and were getting beat up. They have been very successful hence the wording “success” factor.” Another thing she mentioned was issues like at Wilmington, they are mandated by the state to accept agricultural students because other schools don’t offer that curriculum. “Yes, we take that as one of the items we will look at for consideration on a case by case issue. We can’t go against state law. We really have to look at all the examples. Aliquippa and Farrell argued that they are a transient area where people move in and out all the time. We look at that, but in the end we didn’t see that it qualified as an exemption based on certain circumstances. This might be something we’ll talk about and look at.”
What do they do with 6A, where there really doesn’t seem to be consequence?? “We proposed the super class but it wasn’t accepted so stay tuned. We are still trying to find an answer for that.” Mertz also says they may eventually take a look at the schools that have an unusual amount of athletic transers but don’t hit the success factor threshold, but for now they’ll work on perfecting the current rules.
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