Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Dec. 13, 2018 — The PIAA’s private problem

Three years ago, I wrote this.

In it is the following passage:

Currently, the (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) does not hold separate competitions for non-public schools. I did a back-of-the-envelope experiment yesterday and found that it is possible for the PIAA to have a fourth non-public division if it would partner with the PAISAA to fill a bracket using the roughly 70 prep, charter, Quaker, Christian, Roman Catholic, and Mennonite schools in the state that have (field hockey). It would have to take a sea change in thinking for this to happen at the administrative level.

Yesterday, it was announced that the sea change hadn’t happened yet. A PIAA position statement said, in part:

The PIAA board of directors, at the recommendation of counsel, concludes and therefore reaffirms that the separation of playoffs with regard to public, charter and private schools is contrary to the publicly documented legislative intent Act 219 of 1972.

Act 219 is the mechanism by which many private schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania play alongside state public schools for PIAA championships. In many revenue sports, such as football and basketball, private schools dominate the ranks of champions, which has led to calls to have separate non-public championships.

The rise of private schools is a trend in field hockey. Since the institution of the three-division system in 2016, at least one private school has won a PIAA state championship each year; Bethlehem Moravian Academy (Pa.) in 2016, Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) in 2017, and Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) in 2018.

I believe that the competition in the PIAA is healthy enough as it is, but, as the nation’s most prominent field hockey incubator, I think the most significant part of yesterday’s communique is this:

… the PIAA Board of Directors recommends that the PA Equity Group, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania Charter School Coalition attempt to work in unison to find common ground within their respective groups in providing proposals for consideration that are consistent with the intent of Act 219 and further aids in establishment or revision of policies for the betterment of all student-athletes.

It sounds like the PIAA is kicking the proverbial can down the road. But I think a sea change is coming, with the number of parochial schools shrinking and the dawn of the age of the charter school in the commonwealth.

Stay tuned.

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