Bishop Carroll Catholic is returning to the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference in all sports except football beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

A letter obtained by The Tribune-Democrat was sent to the Bishop Carroll parents June 22 by school CEO Jerry Stephens, updating the Huskies’ status with the league.

“It’s kind of a good news, bad news sort of letter to our parents,” Stephens said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “We are very happy that the LHAC changed its tune about bringing back the other sports, but we don’t want to throw football under the bus. We are going to continue to fight to be able to be back in the conference for football, too.”

In December, the Laurel Highlands schools, Bedford, Bishop Guilfoyle, Bishop McCort, Cambria Heights, Central Cambria, Forest Hills, Greater Johnstown, Penn Cambria, Richland, Somerset and Westmont Hilltop, voted unanimously, 11-0, to drop Bishop Carroll from the conference after the coming school year. 

Stephens, with the help of the PIAA leadership, Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and state Rep. Frank Burns got the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee involved in the issue.

The committee, which is comprised of three members of the state house and three members of the state senate, sent the Laurel Highlands a letter on May 17, requesting that the conference “cease and desist from any further consideration of the removal of any private school from the league until such time that the committee schedules and conducts a public hearing regarding this very important issue involving our student-athletes and PIAA member schools,” Stephens said in his letter.

The letter also said that the committee believes that “a certain degree of pressure took place against the remaining two Catholic schools (Bishop McCort and Bishop Guilfoyle) to vote a certain way ... or else find themselves out of the league as well.”

Representatives of Bishop McCort and the LHAC did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

“As I said in the letter, we got the oversight committee involved and we progressed from there,” Stephens said. “The way that the vote was conducted was the basis for the appeal.”

Shortly after the letter was sent to the Laurel Highlands, Stephens and Bishop Carroll principal Lorie Ratchford were invited to a meeting of the Laurel Highlands superintendents and were added back into the conference for all sports except football beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

In December, the LHAC said Chestnut Ridge would replace Bishop Carroll in the conference.

“We are not sure exactly what the next step is right now in order to get our team back in the league in football,” Stephens said.

Once an area power that attained success at the statewide level, Bishop Carroll has lost 21 consecutive games dating back to late in the 2014 season.

The Huskies were 0-10 in 2016 and were outscored by opponents 446-71.

As recently as 2013, Bishop Carroll was 7-5, and won its most recent District 6 Class A title in 2010, advancing into the PIAA playoffs.

The Huskies played in the 2003 state championship title game, losing to Southern Columbia. Bishop Carroll also won District 6 titles in 2001, ‘02, ‘03 and ‘05.

As with many area schools, low numbers have plagued the program, which replaced coach Chris Kozak with former Huskies player and coach Sean Billings for the upcoming season.

“We played all of our varsity games but didn’t play junior varsity in order to make sure that the kids stayed healthy,” Stephens said. “We are certainly not the only school that has low numbers, but things are picking up and we expect to have between 30 and 34 for this season.

“We really want a resolution for football because we know we are not the only ones in a situation with low numbers.”

Cory Isenberg is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5080.​ Follow her on Twitter @CoryIsenbergTD.

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