It's not uncommon for questions to be raised as to whether the PIAA is fostering an atmosphere of fair play in scholastic sports while upholding the educational aspect of interscholastic athletics.
I've raised a few myself - but the most recent board of directors meeting for the agency saw examples of its best and worst on display.
Let's start with a proposed change in the way wrestling tournaments are counted against regular-season competition limits. And, to temper this screed, recall my own words from the past, when I lamented the dwindling number of one-on-one duals meets in the world's oldest sport, brought about by the growth in popularity of dual meet tournaments.
The proposal was to count every match wrestled as one of 22 allowable competition points - effectively gutting the tournaments (which counted as two points) or forcing teams to schedule only a handful of competitions each season.
This "solution" was a response to a tiny group of teams that were skirting the rule to get in as many bouts as possible, fueled perhaps by a dislike in some quarters of certain kinds of tournaments.
Of course, if too many appearances on the mat was the problem, wouldn't an easy solution have been to cap the number of bouts an individual could wrestle prior to the postseason?
Thankfully, the board relented somewhat; a concise explanation comes from fellow sports wag Rod Frisco in a report he filed with GameTimePA.com. The PIAA now counts:
* One team competition point for each stand-alone dual meet;
* Two team competition points for each triangular match or bracketed tournament (individual or team) involving eight or fewer schools;
* Three team competition points for each quadragular meet or bracketed tournament (individual or team) involving nine or more teams or - and this is important - each one-day dual event or pooled event. (Teams were counting one-day pooled events as one-day individual tournaments worth two points, although they should have been counted as three-point events).
* Multi-day events (two-day dual meet tournaments or pooled tournaments or pooled tournaments wrestled in combination with a bracketed tournament) will be aggregate. Simply put, if a tournament runs a four or five-round pooled tournament on Friday and comes back with a bracketed tournament on Saturday, it will cost six competition points. The same goes for a two-day dual event.
The real bone of contention at the meeting was the reduction of the football season from 16 weeks to 15. That became a problem because of playoffs - something that, we all need to recall, didn't even exist 25 years ago.
In fact, there was a time when the regular season was 11 games, and the postseason - the Eastern Conference and the WPIAL had the two most notable tournaments - lasted two or three weeks more. Nobody played in December.
We dropped to 10 games, added and expanded the PIAA bracket to ensure each district had its own tournament, admittedly a substantial fundraiser for the districts - which, along with travel considerations, likely doomed this proposal.
Use Class AAAA, the state's largest, as an example: Districts 1, 11 and 12 (Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia) account for 78 of the 150 schools in the class. Logically, those three deserve most of the spots in the state bracket.
Yet District 8 and its four schools are entitled to one under PIAA policy, and District 6 (four schools) would get its own if Altoona did not play through the WPIAL. The subregional that Mifflin County played in this year used to be the norm for districts with only a few teams in a particular class, but those limitations on playoff qualifiers left some folks feeling left out.
The bracket the PIAA put forth for the 15-week proposal had teams from the Philadelphia region playing against the Pittsburgh area in the "western" final, which left a sour taste in a few mouths - not hard to understand, especially with the underlying belief that the state's two largest districts (3 and 7) already pretty much control the PIAA.
Politics aside, the reason I find the 15-week proposal a problem is because it allowed districts who want to maintain 10-game seasons, and keep eight or 16 qualifiers for playoff brackets seemingly for financial reasons, to hold their first regular-season game a week earlier.
Which means, in their effort to protect the kids from too much football, there will not only be no reduction in football, but the season will start with less practice and conditioning (that game would have replaced the second scrimmage).
Yeah, that will help the kids.
There's an easy solution, which is to either redistrict the state, or simply regionalize all state playoffs. But as long as politics is the No. 1 game being played in Mechanicsburg, that isn't going to happen.
Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.