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The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) took a strong stance on tightening its transfer rules and implemented a competition formula for football and basketball that will impact future classification cycles.

Those two changes to the PIAA by-laws were addressed during a PIAA Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday in State College.

The agenda did not address separate playoffs for public (boundary) and private (non-boundary) schools in football and basketball. 

That controversial topic will be the focal point of a Tuesday meeting organized by superintendents across the state. As of Tuesday, 262 people from 108 schools had committed to attend next week’s much-publicized meeting in State College.

“The latest communication I’ve seen is these superintendents really want to partner with the PIAA to find solutions,” said Penn Cambria High School Superintendent William Marshall, who became PIAA District 6 Committee Chairman on July 1.

PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi had made the transfer rule a priority.

The new rule will go into effect on Aug. 6. Any student-athlete who transfers as a sophomore, junior or senior will be ineligible for postseason play for one year in all sports they had competed in prior to the transfer. In order to have the rule in place for the 2018-19 school year, the PIAA Board suspended its protocol requiring three readings for proposed rule changes.

The vote, according to reports, was nearly unanimous, 26-2.

“If somebody transfers to Penn Cambria on Aug. 7 and they are a three-sport athlete, they would be ineligible for all their sports championships this year,” Marshall said, citing a theoretical example. “If that person transferred to Penn Cambria on Nov. 14 and they had already played football, then they would be ineligible in the winter and spring, but also the (next) fall. 

“It would cover a full year of sports.”

The PIAA rule will consider a “few exceptions” or hardship situations such as:

• Change of residence necessitated by a change in employment.

• School-initiated administrative transfer within the school district.

• Court-ordered transfer.

• Change in schools caused by a military assignment of a parent.

• Change of schools caused by release from a juvenile facility.

• Demonstrable change in income or other financial resources that compels a withdrawal from a private school.

“They are saying there must be exceptional and compelling circumstances in order for a waiver to be considered,” Marshall said. “A change of residency or a transfer to a private school for religious experiences, those necessarily will not be considered exceptional and compelling circumstances. They’re really tightening up that.”

Data for the competition formula will be calculated beginning this school year and results are expected to affect the 2020-21 reclassification cycle, Marshall said.

The success factor scale will award points based on a team’s participation in a district final; participation in a PIAA quarterfinal; participation in a PIAA semifinal; and participation in a PIAA final.

Should a school accumulate specific point totals in a two-year cycle and accept athletic transfers, the school would move up one class in that sport for the following cycle.

“It takes two years to collect the data for that competitive scale,” Marshall said. “They’ll start collecting data this year but it would have no impact on any schools until the 2020-21 school year.”

Earlier proposals had considered adding a classification for Class AAAAAA schools who collect a significant number of points in the formula. 

But that plan was not acted upon.

“Creating a super classification – a seventh classification – has been taken out,” Marshall said. “So the only issue is what happens to a 6A school that has a high number of transfers and wins multiple championships? 

“Obviously there is no where for them to go up at this point.”

Marshall said the transfer rule should have a significant impact.

“(In the past) the toughest rule for the district committee is when you have hearings regarding transfers and the school that the student is leaving is contesting the transfer and saying there is recruiting or the transfer is for athletic intent,” Marshall said. “That’s extremely hard to prove. This instance now, it’s making it black and white.”

Social media sites on Wednesday posted a detailed chart attributed to the PIAA and District 3 in which the state championship winners in 25 PIAA sports from 1972-73 through 2017-18 are listed. 

The number of champions in each sport are split according to those won by public schools and those won by non-boundary schools.

The chart also has the number of titles broken down from the 2008-09 season to present, and also from 1972-73 through 2007-08.

“A lot of the information that is being shared publicly is inaccurate such as non-boundary schools have won 75 percent of championships – that’s not true,” Marshall said.

According to the PIAA chart, since 1972-73 in boys basketball public schools have won 105 team championships and non-boundary schools 72 (40.7 percent). In girls basketball, public schools have 77 team championships and non-boundary, 92 (54.4 percent).

In football, public schools have 91 team championships and non-boundary, 33 (26.7 percent) since 1972-73, though state playoffs in the sport didn’t begin until 1988.

“It was very interesting to read,” Marshall said.

The more recent numbers are more pertinent to what will be discussed at next week’s meeting organized by superintendents.

Since 2008-09, non-boundary schools have won 63.6 percent of boys basketball team titles, 59.1 percent of girls basketball team titles and 50 percent of football team titles.

Central Cambria High School superintendent Jason Moore submitted an editorial that appeared in The Tribune-Democrat and other media outlets last month. 

The editorial cited statistics from the past seven years in which Moore’s numbers included non-boundary schools winning 73 percent of boys basketball championships and 60 percent of girls basketball championships, as well as 56 percent of football state championships.

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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