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Aliquippa officially files lawsuit against PIAA over competitive balance rule

Aliquippa sues PIAA for moving it up to class 5A
Aliquippa sues PIAA for moving it up to class 5A 02:05

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The Aliquippa School District has officially filed a lawsuit against the PIAA over its football team being forced to move up class 5A as part of the league's competitive balance formula. 

Earlier this year, the school was informed that the team would be moved from 4A to 5A on the heels of its recent PIAA 4A state championship title. 

Based on enrollment, the football team is an A team, but due to their ability, agreed to move up in class to 4A, and now the PIAA wants them to move up again to a 5A schedule. 

Superintendent Dr. Phillip K. Woods announced the district has filed a lawsuit to stop the move, saying it's gone too far. 

"The teams at 5A have between 60, 70, 75 kids on their roster," Woods said, while Aliquippa's average team size is between 40 and 45. 

Woods says that difference puts Alliquipa's players at a significant and dangerous disadvantage. 

"Our kids are playing non-stop, they never even come off the field," he said. 

The PIAA's competitive balance rule takes into account postseason success over two years, and the Quips have been in the state championship games the last two seasons. This season, Aliquippa went 14-0.

Aliquippa running back Tiqwai Hayes, a Penn State recruit celebrates during the team's WPIAL 4A Championship title win over McKeesport at Acrisure Stadium.  Mike Darnay/Mon Valley Independent

According to Woods, the PIAA told the district the reason for the move was dominance on the field. Woods says if that's the case, there's a clear double standard. 

"It can't be about dominance and winning because Southern Columbia has won eight state championships in a row," he said. 

In 2020, the PIAA moved Aliquippa up from 3A to 4A, and last year tried to move them to 5A.  The school appealed based on player safety and the PIAA granted the request. 

This year, the school's appeal was unsuccessful with the PIAA's ruling based on the number of transfers into the district. 

State Rep. Rob Matzie of Beaver County has introduced legislation aimed at investigating the PIAA in the wake of the decision to deny Aliquippa's appeal. 

"While non-boundary private schools recruit players from all over the United States and rural co-ops exploit known - but never closed - loopholes in their policies, a small, struggling, urban school district is punished for striving for excellence by the very body tasked with ensuring fairness," he said on Wednesday. 

"I will continue my efforts to take a closer look at the PIAA and lead in bringing about much needed changes to ensure fairness for all schools and student-athletes," he added.

KDKA-TV reached out to the PIAA but was informed the office is closed for Good Friday. Meanwhile, Woods says the district can win on the field and must have a chance to win in court. 

"We need our day in court so that someone will listen to our position and give us consideration," he said. 

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