HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A Pennsylvania lawmaker has introduced legislation to create separate state championship brackets for public and nonpublic high school sports.
House Bill 1600 would create a new playoff structure governed by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association for football, baseball, softball, girls’ and boys’ basketball, girls’ volleyball, and girls’ and boys’ soccer.
The two state champions from each bracket would meet for a final championship.
Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence) said his bill has the support of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the public school superintendent-led Pennsylvania Athletic Equity Steering Committee.
“This is the first time in 40 years that both sides have sat down in a non-adversarial setting to resolve these challenges and understand each other’s goals,” Bernstine said in a statement Tuesday. “At the end of the day, everyone was focused on making sure the end result was in the best interest of the students both athletically and academically.”
In addition to separate playoff brackets, House Bill 1600 would also make the following changes:
• Eliminate the transfer rule, making a student immediately eligible to play after transferring schools if he or she meets all other eligibility standards. In-season transfer eligibility would be restricted with exceptions granted for certain extenuating circumstances.
• Disqualify a team for PIAA playoffs if it forfeits two or more regular-season games in one season.
• Allow for separate playoff brackets to be used in additional team sports if there are at least 50 public schools and 50 nonpublic schools participating in the sport.
• Increase fairness in the PIAA’s district committees to ensure each district accurately reflects the makeup of schools in that given area.
The PIAA’s board of directors does not believe segregated playoffs are the answer.
“This proposal of having 18% of private schools being guaranteed 50% of the championship entries promotes inequities in post-season opportunities,” the board said in a statement. “Extending sports seasons to host an additional tournament of champions between private and public schools serves no educational purpose. This would cause scheduling issues, would be detrimental to the health and safety of student-athletes and their possible participation in subsequent sport seasons.”
A 1972 law allowed nonpublic schools to become PIAA members, giving public schools more competition for state championships. Public high school officials, however, have complained that private and charter schools have an edge because they can recruit athletes without the geographic boundaries that define public schools.
Superintendents, coaches, and athletic directors from nearly 150 public high schools met last July in State College to discuss the possibility of leaving the PIAA and establishing a new entity to oversee scholastic sports.