The WPIAL announced changes to its postseason formats for fall sports Wednesday and several of them are major, the result of the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the seasons.
The most significant changes involve football. In the past, the WPIAL has used conference records, head-to-head results, the Gardner Point System and tiebreaker points, in that order, to determine playoff participants from each conference. Because the pandemic has left some teams unable to play a full conference schedule, the WPIAL has approved having its 12-member football steering committee choose the playoff participants from those conferences.
It is sure to create controversy, especially in muddled Class 6A, where only four teams qualify, more than half of the classification’s members will not play a complete league schedule and several upsets have occurred.
The steering committee will select the wild-card playoff teams in four classifications. In Class 5A, 4A, 3A and A, the top two teams from each conference plus two wild cards qualify for the playoffs. The WPIAL approved a different playoff format for Class 2A, in which only the top team from each conference and four wild cards qualify. Unlike in past seasons, multiple wild cards can come from the same conference.
But football isn’t the only sport where subjective opinion will decide some playoff berths. Boys and girls soccer, field hockey and volleyball will also have some of their playoff spots decided by WPIAL steering committees if canceled games impact playoff positions.
Other changes include:
- The higher-seeded team in football, soccer, volleyball and field hockey will have home games in the playoffs through the semifinals. For this season, there will be no neutral-site games until the finals.
- Heinz Field will not be used for football championship games. They will be played at high school stadiums. Some sites could host more than one game. Championship games in other sports will be held at high schools.
- The top four teams in each volleyball, soccer and field hockey section will qualify for the playoffs.
- In boys and girls soccer, all games must be played on artificial turf. If a team is scheduled to have a home playoff game but does not have a turf field, then the game will be moved to a turf field.
- If a team cannot play a postseason game because of a COVID-19 situation, then it will forfeit the game and the opponent will advance. This will be the rule in both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.
- For all playoff games, the WPIAL is requiring schools to make available the same number of tickets for each school.
- The WPIAL cross country championships, which were held at California University last year, will be held over two days, Oct. 28-29, at White Oak Park in McKeesport.
- The WPIAL football pairings will be announced either Oct. 24 or 25.