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PIAA Private school success at issue

Monday, May 5, 2003


In the last two seasons, private schools have won 13 of 16 state basketball titles.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
For the first time since it was forced to accept private schools into membership, the PIAA will address the matter of public and private schools competing together in playoffs.
PIAA executive director Brad Cashman will direct the PIAA's policy review committee to review alternatives to the current state format because of numerous complaints that have followed the last two basketball championships.
"We have received -- and we receive them every year after the basketball playoffs -- numerous complaints by either telephone or e-mail about the private schools playing the public schools," Cashman said.
Perceived advantages
In the last two seasons, private schools have won 13 of 16 PIAA basketball titles, prompting a wave of complaints about the perceived advantages private schools have in recruiting. Private schools often accept students from a larger geographical area than the public schools they compete against.
Cashman will ask the PIAA board of directors to consider three possibilities: Hold separate tournaments for private and public schools, then have the champions meet, a format similar to that employed by neighboring New Jersey and New York; use a multiplier for private school enrollments that could cause a school to rise in classification; or leave the system as it is.
Cashman prefers the third option.
"Quite frankly, my preference is to leave well enough alone," Cashman said. "First, I think this a basketball-only problem."
In football, private schools have won only nine of 60 championships won since the PIAA playoffs began in 1988.
"There is also the equal treatment issue," Cashman said. "Will we create an opportunity for someone to challenge us on the equal treatment basis if we go this way?"
New York and New Jersey have separate basketball tournaments for private and public schools, but West Virginia and Delaware do not. The Maryland athletic association includes public schools only.
Factor system
Cashman said Missouri multiplies its private-school enrollments by a factor of 1.3 to determine those schools' playoff classifications. That policy just recently withstood a court challenge, but Cashman said that doesn't mean it would survive a similar challenge in Pennsylvania if implemented.
The policy review committee was to meet in Mechanicsburg today to discuss the public-private issue and work on changing the statewide playoff structure in team sports because of the upcoming addition of 37 Philadelphia public schools later this summer.
Philadelphia schools will become PIAA members on July 1, but will not be eligible for PIAA championships until the 2004-05 school year.
The Philadelphia Catholic League athletic directors will hear a presentation from Cashman and other PIAA officials at their annual meeting May 9 in Ocean City, N.J.
The Catholic League athletic directors voted unanimously earlier this year not to seek PIAA membership, but the league's Board of Governors came away from a February meeting with Cashman impressed that PIAA membership was worth investigating.