Bill would create separate sports brackets in PIAA state playoffs

HARRISBURG, Pa. - There was a new bill introduced on the house floor Tuesday. Legislation that would create separate sports playoff brackets for high school students across the state.

House Bill 1600, the Parity in Interscholastic Athletics Act would re-align PIAA championships for a number of high school sports. There would also be separate playoffs for public and non-public schools. Supporters said this is not about handing out more trophies, but about fairness across the board.

State Representative Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence), members of the PA Catholic Conference and PA Equity Steering Committee, came together to support a bill that would impact hundreds of thousands of students.

The bill creates separate playoff brackets, only in the PIAA state playoffs. It would include a public and nonpublic school champion in most team sports. The two state champions would then meet for a final championship.

"I think people that would know me understand that I'm not an 'everybody gets a trophy kind of guy’,” Bernstine said. “This is about fairness and equity. And most importantly it's about protecting our students in Pennsylvania."

And the bill would do a few other things. It would eliminate all transfer rules with the exception of mid season transfers, so long as athletes meet all other eligibility standards.

"We don't want students not being able to play because of decisions that adults have made,” Bernstine said.

A team would be disqualified for the PIAA playoffs if it forfeits two or more regular-season games in one season.

Private schools will no longer be kicked out of separate leagues, and can't be blacklisted out of regular season play, guaranteeing them more regular season games.

And as for the rumor that smaller schools won't have anyone to play, or that they'll have to travel too far, the executive director of the PA Catholic Conference said that's not the case.

"We have some schools, especially in rural areas,” Failing said. “They need teams to play. And if we have teams that are refusing to play us, that hurts our kids, and nobody wants that to happen.”

And if a specific sport becomes more popular in the future, separate playoff brackets could be used if there are at least 50 public schools and 50 nonpublic schools participating.

“Change can be scary,” Failing said. “Please don't make any snap judgements or snap decisions until you get a chance to fully look at the legislation.”

Bernstine said he expects this bill to move quickly.

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