Tuesday, January 18, 2022 | 00:16
Tuesday should be a big day for football players, coaches and WPIAL fans.
The WPIAL board is expected to approve the realigned conferences for the 2022 and 23 seasons, giving everyone a first look at the football landscape for the next two years. Arguably the biggest question concerns the five biggest schools in the WPIAL: North Allegheny, Mt. Lebanon, Seneca Valley, Central Catholic and Canon-McMillan, the only remaining teams in Class 6A.
What to do with them has sparked debate.
“Basically you have one of three options,” Canon-McMillan coach Mike Evans said, adding that neither is a perfect solution. If Evans were successful, he would eliminate classification statewide.
Instead of six classes, he would like to see PIAA football reduced to five.
“I just wish Pennsylvania realized we have regional issues and would be better off if we were a five-class setup instead of a six,” Evans said.
It’s not on the table for the next two seasons, so WPIAL must make a choice.
The WPIAL football committee met on Friday to make a recommendation to the board. It’s possible the Football Committee have come up with an entirely new approach, but the Football Committee’s recommendation won’t be revealed until Tuesday’s board meeting.
Here is an overview of three possible options:
Option 1: The WPIAL takes a somewhat status quo approach and leaves the five Class 6A teams in a separate classification. The five teams would only have four conference games each, meaning the majority of their schedules would be non-conference, likely against WPIAL Class 5A opponents.
Or, the five teams could play each other twice in a home-and-away series. But then some would play a third time in the WPIAL playoffs, which isn’t ideal.
“The biggest schools in WPIAL just don’t have a good track record,” Evans said. “I know the schools in Philadelphia really want (six classifications), but it’s not working for us here.”
Option 2: The WPIAL could combine its class 6A and 5A teams into a single top school ranking. Class 6A/5A would have 22 or 23 teams (depending on the outcome of Aliquippa’s ongoing appeal with the PIAA).
Theoretically, if split into three conferences, a Class 5A-6A alignment might look like this:
• Conference 1: Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shaler
• Conference 2: Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Moon, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township, South Fayette, Upper St. Clair
• Conference 3: Franklin Regional, Gateway, Hempfield, Norwin, Penn Hills, Penn-Trafford, Plum
If Aliquippa joined Class 5A, these would change a bit.
Evans said he sees value in this format in reigniting some South Hills rivalries.
“They did a good job last year giving us non-conference games,” Evans said. “We played Bethel, Trinity and Peters. Some of these games can mean more to our kids than our conference games because in our conference games, because we’re playing teams over an hour away that aren’t our traditional rivals.
“Playing at 5A there’s less travel and maybe better attendance because of the proximity,” North Allegheny coach Art Walker said. “But as a 6A coach, you don’t necessarily always want to play at 5A schools. Nothing against them, but there is more to lose than to gain.
Another downside would be that some Class 5A teams don’t necessarily want to play against certain 6A opponents.
“Putting myself into the shoes of a 5A – 5A coach isn’t really a problem, is it? says Walker. “They can have conferences and everything without us. Why should 6A become 5A’s problem? »
Additionally, the WPIAL should address the format of the playoffs. Would there be separate 6A and 5A class WPIAL champions or just one?
“Will all 6A teams play each other in the regular season if there are (combined) 5A-6A conferences?” says Walker. “If you don’t, how are they going to be seeded at the end of the year for the playoffs? And do they all get there?
Option 3: WPIAL could look for a type of schedule combined with a neighboring district, such as PIAA District 10, which has four Class 6A teams: Butler, Cathedral Prep, McDowell and Erie High.
“My vote would be to include District 10,” Walker said, “with 6A playing 6A.”
First, District 10 should be interested.
The vast majority of 6A teams are in Eastern Pennsylvania. The western half has very few. State College, Altoona, and Mifflin County are the only 6A schools in District 6. The Pittsburgh City League, which counts as District 8, has one (Allderdice).
District 1 alone, which includes suburban Philadelphia schools, has more than 30 Class 6A teams.
Joining a nearby neighborhood is a nice idea, but the biggest downside might be the travel. A round trip from Canon-McMillan to McDowell is 280 miles – and at least 2.5 hours each way.
“There are shortages of buses and drivers in many districts,” Canon-Mac coach Evans said. “It’s pretty tough to get to Norwin on time, let alone get to Erie.
“I remember playing at Altoona, and it was a booty. The abseiling club paid thousands of dollars for coaches for this trip. It’s hard to believe you’d go up there in yellow submarines for three hours in 90 degree heat with the windows open. That’s probably worth 14 points here.
Keywords: Canon-McMillan, Central Catholic, Mt. lebanon, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley