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HS SPORTS: PIAA adopts tighter transfer rule

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The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors adopted changes Wednesday in response to scrutiny regarding transfers and competitive balance.

The major revisions: limits on postseason eligibility for transfers and a competitive balance formula for determining classifications.

At a meeting in University Park, the state’s governing body for high school sports, passed a resolution that bans postseason eligibility for one season for student-athletes who transfer after competing in a sport in their 10th grade year or beyond. The vote was 27-2, according to PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi. The board suspended protocol for the vote and the new guidelines are effective Aug. 6.

There were also provisions accepted for hardship waivers regarding a transferring student, where the student or a family member can appeal based on circumstances including residency change because of employment, parental military reassignment and court-ordered transfers.

“I think this was the right thing to do,” Lombardi said in a telephone interview. “I think the board did a really good job.”

Transfers for athletic purpose have always been forbidden by the PIAA. However, recent high-profile transfers that impacted the state postseason fanned the flames of what has long been a hot-button issue in the public vs. private school debate.

During the state basketball playoffs, sophomore Diamond Johnson, a star player from Virginia, transferred to Neumann-Goretti in February and played an integral role in her team’s run to a state championship, that included a win over Dunmore in the Class 3A semifinals.

Also, with almost 100 public school administrators set to meet Tuesday in State College to discuss competitive balance and a possible mass exodus into their own athletic organization, the PIAA enacted a new classification policy for the two-year cycle that begins with the 2020-2021 school year. It, too, passed on suspended protocol.

Schools had been pooled together based upon enrollment. Now, they will be sorted by a competition formula that will take into account enrollment, success and number of athletic transfers.

“We feel that the PIAA is a representative democracy and, if there are concerns, they can be brought to the representatives on this board and they will be discussed and put through the process,” Lombardi said. “I think (Wednesday) proves that. If some choose to withdraw from that process, I guess they can do so.

“But, we believe working through the process has worked through the years.”

In response to a controversy with the state’s pitch-count rule during the postseason that forced a forfeit by the winning team, the PIAA took measures to prevent future issues.

Now, the PIAA will have a designated official scorekeeper at all district and interdistrict games, Lombardi said.

State College defeated Erie McDowell, 3-2, in the District 6-10 Class 6A subregional championship game. However, a discrepancy in the number of pitches thrown by David Shoemaker resulted in him exceeding the state limit of 100.

McDowell, the home and official score-keeping team had Shoemaker at 100 pitches after recording the first out in the bottom of the seventh inning. State College’s bench had its left-hander at 97.

Shoemaker then struck out the next batter before exiting the game. A pitcher can only exceed the 100-pitch limit during an at-bat. After umpires, coaches and the District 10 chairman met, the teams finished the game, but State College forfeited the win and McDowell moved into the first round of the state playoffs.

■ The pitch count thresholds also increased, based upon a recommendation from the PIAA baseball steering committee. The number of maximum pitches increased from 100 to 105 in a game and from 200 to 210 in a week.

The addition of a seventh super class for football and basketball was tabled.

“There were so many hiccups at the district level, it is something the board chose not to pursue,” Lombardi said.

jbfawcett@timesshamrock.com;

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