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Administrators Meet To Debate Fairness Of Public, Private Schools Competing For Same PIAA Championships

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- High school sports teams compete with dreams of winning state championship under the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

But many public high schools say there's an uneven playing field.

PA Athletic Oversight Committee
Photo Credit: KDKA

"This is about fairness. Although it is in the context of athletics, we are trying to do what is best for the kids," said Leonard Rich, superintendent of the Laurel School District in Lawrence County.

Last July, 200 school superintendents and athletic directors met in State College to address what they say is the unfairness of allowing private, charter, and Catholic schools -- which can recruit student athletes from anywhere -- to compete for state championships against public schools whose athletes come from within the geographic boundaries of a specific school district.

Spurred by public schools from this region, the PIAA Equity Steering Committee wants two separate state championships -- one for public schools and one for everyone else.

"When you look at the high profile sports, especially in basketball and in football, there are a larger number by a long shot of private and or parochial schools that have won championships over public schools," says PA Rep. Rob Matzie of Ambridge.

Matzie is on the legislative committee looking into this issue.

On Wednesday, they held a hearing at Heinz Field.

Some say tightening the PIAA rules will suffice.

"I don't believe it is," Sean McAleer with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said when asked if the playoff structure was unfair. "I believe if it is, the PIAA is doing everything they can to make it more competitive with some of the rules they just put into play."

So what happens next?

"The parochial schools, the charter schools, the public schools and the PIAA all agreed to have a discussion further about this issue," said Matzie.

Matzie hopes the parties can resolve the issue without legislation.

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