Catholic League Joins PIAA
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On 12/11/06, in a press conference
held at School District of Phila. headquarters,
the Catholic League announced its intention to join the PIAA (though La Salle and
SJ Prep must apply separately) and become members of District 12, currently
reserved for Pub schools. Ted's column is below. Your comments can be found
toward the bottom of the page. Please send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
and put the words "CL & PIAA" in the subject field. Also advise on whether it's OK
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AND, SO, WE have come full
Almost 27 years after thumbing its nose at the Public League by refusing to allow its girls' champions to participate in City Title events, thus killing the tradition-steeped boys' series that lasted four-plus decades and over time encompassed all sports, the Catholic League has come crawling back, making all nice.
Assuming no snags with approvals expected to be of the rubber-stamp variety, and also assuming that fully privates La Salle and St.
Joseph's Prep remain in the fold, District 12 of the PIAA will include the Pub and Cath for the 2008-09 school year.
Those CL folks know a patsy when they see one.
It was the Pub, despite great internal uproar that to a large degree remains in place, that went to all the trouble of altering its entire existence to join the PIAA in September 2004 (after 1 year as a paper-only member).
And now, incredibly, it's the Cath that will benefit, after needing only to step lightly around assorted rubble.
Has anyone been paying attention? Has anyone noticed that since becoming eligible to compete for state titles, PL reps in team sports aside from basketball (boys' version only) have become almost completely accustomed to losing and even getting trounced?
Yes, CL officials did. Knowing their sports programs are stronger almost across the board, they have plotted to enter the PIAA through District 12 even though, a generation ago, they wanted to create as much distance as possible between their league and that league.
Can't you just hear what went on in the recent Archdiocese-sponsored committee meetings?
"The Pub is weaker than ever. All those charter and special schools. The talent is so diluted. If we go into District 1, we'll have to fight against so many quality schools."
"Yeah, let's talk District 12 into taking us. We'll be stronger pretty much across the board. Maybe they'll even take our suburban schools."
"Man, are they that naÔve? Think they'll do that? That'd be heaven."
All along, the officers in the PL's sports administration group, and their bosses, have insisted the go-PIAA move made sense because benefits can be derived simply from competing. And from helping their athletes realize there's a big, wide state out there.
Agreed. Competition does make the world go 'round. And a kid from North Philly does need to realize "suburbs" does not mean West Philly.
It's just that now there's a legitimate fear: How many Pub teams will actually storm forward out of District 12 and get to experience the assorted niceties?
Again and again recently, Pub coaches and athletic directors have asked me, "Why are we committing suicide?"
So as yesterday's lengthy news conference, held in the School District Administration Building, wound down, that question was posed to the top two officers in PL sports administration, Marjorie Wuestner and Robert Coleman (he doubles as the District 12 chairman).
"I don't believe that. I truly don't believe that," Wuestner said. "Competition is great."
Coleman then began talking about the poor attendance by localites at the recent Frankford-Liberty Class AAAA state playoff and how much better a City Title showdown would fare at the gate, keeping revenues in the city.
He was sounding like a guy who now believes a City Title is more important than a state championship.
"He's not saying that," Wuestner quickly chimed in. "He's saying it's an important game."
Wuestner then added PL sports will be lifted across the board because the middle-school programs are improving. She said those programs are not in financial danger "because we won't allow that to happen."
Here's something else the Pub should not tolerate: the stealing of its athletes.
When an athlete transfers to a new school, unless he has been tossed for grades or behavior, his old and new principal must sign papers contending the move was not made for athletic purposes.
How many of you are laughing? Sure, non-athletes transfer all the time from Pub to Cath schools in 10th, 11th or even 12th grade (wink, wink).
Once CL members become part of the District 12 committee, and assuming the PL folks show spine, those eligibility hearings could make for a great reality show.
(Meanwhile, the Pub will need to do a much better job of making sure its own house is in order when it comes to transfer paperwork. It now enjoys living in a vacuum. Not so when it joins with the CL. In Pub football and basketball, I'm guessing there are at least 100 transfers in action this year. A PIAA bigwig could have all kinds of fun trying to determine how many times people bothered with the
paperwork. Or even know they're supposed to do it.)
Bishop Joseph McFadden, who oversees education in the Archdiocese (and is a longtime proponent of getting the CL into the PIAA), said "the moment is now" when asked to describe why this move finally took place. He added, "We're looking to an exciting and enriching future."
Wuestner said to the audience, "We will not shy away in any way. Raise the bar, and get better."
On overall matters, Brad Cashman, PIAA executive director, said he envisions the PIAA adding another big-school classification for football playoffs and perhaps more all-sports, state-tournament entrants from District 12 because of its increased size; he can't picture a separation of public and non-public schools for state tourney purposes; CL schools, like those in the PL, will be unable to play against fifth-year athletes (that could force the Inter-Ac's join-the-PIAA hand); high schools are allowed to "athletically recruit" only at predetermined feeder schools; and principals are solely responsible for making sure all athletes are eligible and have not received athletic scholarships.
McFadden insisted CL personnel are prohibited from recruiting athletes and those who do so "put their jobs on the line." He added, "Money is not to be given to come play athletics."
Guffaw time again. Some athletes pay little or nothing. Their tuition is covered by "sponsors." Some folks who donate money for memorial scholarships stipulate that the money can go, for instance, only to a football player.
On a broader scale, parents of eighth-graders have become adept at pitting one school against another. "Yo, they're giving us $1,000 off the tuition. Make it $1,500 and I'll go to your place."
McFadden said he was not in favor of open enrollment, which went into full effect for the 1993-94 school year and helped lead to this insanity. "But that's where we are," he said. "There's no going back on that."
How this move will affect individual CL sports is murky. In football, a playoff round and occasional Thanksgiving meetings might have to go. In basketball, the regular season will end much earlier and participation for top-line teams in the prestigious Alhambra tournament
will terminate. Generally, game limits in all sports will be lower.
So much to do. About 20 months to work with.
Pub people? They can hope that, if this was a suicide, it was only a take-pills version. And that the stomach-pumping will be successful.
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