Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

The crying need to split private and public schools gives a whole new definition to the term separation anxiety.

So much so that the proposed Parity in Interscholastic Athletics Act, also known as House Bill 1600, introduced by state Rep. Aaron Bernstine, will try to compromise other parts of scholastic sports to create that separation.

I agree with Bernstine and a lot of the fans who have their pitchforks out demanding change. No law from 1972, no matter how big a drum the PIAA wants to beat, should restrict holding separate playoffs. And the PIAA has mostly been unwilling to work with the state on providing alternatives.

I repeat; having a system to separate public and private/charter/parochial schools would be beneficial to bettering parity in high school sports.

Berstine’s proposed bill could solve that problem but create many others.

The minor issues with the bill include:

  • Seasons extending even longer with a tournament of champions, which would have the public league champion play against the private/parochial winner. The seasons are long enough, sites are hard enough to find and the overlap for multi-sport athletes would be prolonged.
  • The bill limits the separation only in the PIAA playoffs. So, how does this affect seeding? Why are we limiting the separation to state competition when many local schools won’t even advance that far? The problem really isn’t in the state tournaments but rather in the regular season and district playoffs.
  • It also has charter schools, which operate under the same principles as private/parochial schools, still competing with public schools.

The biggest problem with the bill is it creates open season for transferring. Pandora’s box is open and what could lie inside could be downright dangerous if this were to happen.

“The inconsistently interpreted and enforced transfer rule will be eliminated, making a student immediately eligible to play after transferring schools, as long as he or she meets all other eligibility standards,” Bernstine said.

In other words, it is free game. Transfer with basically no questions asked would be the new protocol.

The transfer rules and competitive-balance formula the PIAA board of directors approved last summer would become obsolete. If those rules are gone, most schools wouldn’t be dramatically impacted. There won’t be a monumental shift. There will be problems, especially for small schools that could easily lose its best athletes.

The distaste and complaints will shift from public versus private to public versus public. As long as an athlete “lives” with a guardian within a district, he or she can attend that particular school. Public schools could welcome athletes from anywhere and private/catholic schools wouldn’t have to lie through their teeth that transfers they accepted were for academic reasons.

Imagine high schools hiring recruiters.

Now imagine the best athletes from smaller local schools – 15 of the 22 schools in the Observer-Reporter coverage area are classified in Class 2A or A in at least one sport – deciding to transfer to larger schools.

Then imagine Burgettstown and Fort Cherry or Washington, McGuffey and Trinity or Canon-McMillan and Peters Township fighting for athletes.

That is what would happen, eventually.

Bernstine said at a news conference Tuesday in Harrisburg that he believes the House will pass his bill and “expects the Senate to do their job.”

The only job the Senate needs to do is the right one, making sure this poorly crafted bill doesn’t ruin what good is left in Pennsylvania high school sports.

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