Pennsylvania Rep. Aaron Bernstine scheduled a news conference for today to discuss a bill that would force the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association to hold separate postseason tournaments for public and parochial/private high schools.
Bernstine told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he believes the bill has a good chance at eventually being signed by Gov. Tom Wolf and that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which represents all Catholic dioceses in the state, is on board with the legislation.
“We have a great piece of legislation that has been agreed to by the Catholic Conference as well as public schools,” Bernstine said. “I would say this is something that people have tried to address for the last 40-plus years.
“This is historic because since 1972, there has been a situation where two sides have disagreed on an issue. We collaborated and brought both sides together over the past year. That doesn’t happen enough here in Harrisburg. There’s no reason for the House to hold it up. We’re not going to hold it up. I’m sure the Senate will do their job as well.”
As reported by the Post-Gazette, for many years coaches, administrators and fans have complained that private and Catholic schools have a competitive advantage in high school sports because they do not have geographical boundaries from which to draw students. Lately, the complaints also have included charter schools, which are public schools that also have no geographic boundaries. Public schools can only take students from their geographical area.
The argument has been made that this ability to draw talent without boundaries has led to the huge success of Philadelphia Catholic League schools, particularly in basketball.
Under Bernstein's bill, public and Catholic/private schools will continue to play in the regular season but have separate postseason tournaments. Champions of those tournaments could then square off, if desired, a model currently used in New Jersey.
PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi has said the league has no desire to have separate tournaments unless forced by the state Legislature. Lombardi and other PIAA officials have contended that a 1972 law forced the PIAA to accept Catholic schools into membership. Critics contend the law only says the PIAA must accept Catholic schools, not that separate postseason tournaments are forbidden.