What a relief.
For me. For you. For the 22 local high school football teams within the Observer-Reporter’s coverage area and football programs across the WPIAL.
Earlier this week, when more than 70% of schools across the district voted to keep the football landscape as we know it intact, they did everybody a favor.
The WPIAL offered a pair of proposals earlier this month. The first, which was ultimately voted for, was a “status quo” proposal that would keep the current format of six classifications and be divided by enrollment. The second would have completely overhauled the football landscape, a “regionalization” that would divide teams into 12 conferences based on geography. The 10-team conferences would have schools from multiple classifications that would play one another. In that format, a point system would have been used to determine playoff qualifiers.
Is Class 6A predictable? Yes, for the most part.
Does it seem that Classes 5A and 2A are loaded? Well, yeah, because that’s exactly what they are.
Why can’t we go back to four classes? Boy, if I had my druthers.
When schools in the district voted to keep it the same, to be quite honest, six classifications never looked better.
Why, you might ask?
It comes down to either burning $5 – or more – at the gas tank or putting some of that gas on a five-dollar bill, or more – and lighting it on fire when you buy a ticket to a high school football game. Burning your money might have been a better option than spending it on watching teams one, two or sometimes even three classifications apart playing one another.
How bad would it have been? Heck, look how bad it has been.
In 2018, of the 166 regular-season games played by the 22 local high school football teams – not counting Mapletown’s forfeit to Clairton – the average margin of victory was an alarming 30.42 points. Sixty-six of those 166 games, 39.8%, were won by 35 points or more. It wasn’t much better last season. The average margin of victory for the 167 regular-season games played by local teams was 29.17 points, including 68 games that were decided by at least 35 points.
Compare that to just the 20 local games decided by seven points or fewer in 2019. Or the 16 games in 2018 that were determined by a touchdown or less.
So here’s my question. Can you say noncompetitive, Mercy Rule-invoking blowouts?
Now imagine if the “regionalization” proposal would have been chosen. Avella and Bentworth would have played Washington and McGuffey. Jefferson-Morgan and Mapletown would have played Uniontown, which despite its struggles is a Class 4A school for the upcoming cycle.
If Class A schools were struggling for kids now, imagine what it would be like within two or three years. In some instances, there would be no team needed to fill.
The WPIAL football steering committee met Thursday to clean up the proposal and better update conferences for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The tweaks to be made include better organizing conferences that are more geographically friendly and having nonconference opponents handpicked by the district rather than being assigned at random. The changes are expected to be voted on and finalized at next Monday’s WPIAL board meeting.
It will never be perfect but at least it’s a step in the right direction. And I can promise you this: it definitely blows away the alternative.
Staff writer Luke Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.