Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Big Changes Confronting Big Schools Wpial Realignment Draws Criticism from Coaches

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Big Changes Confronting Big Schools Wpial Realignment Draws Criticism from Coaches

Article excerpt

Upper St. Clair High School football coach Jim Render said one of the worst bus rides he was ever on was for a game at Plum.

"We went through McKeesport with all that traffic, and I don't know my way around there all that well, so I just sat there and went crazy," he said. "I'm pretty sure that was Sean Lee's sophomore year and we had a bus for the booster club and by the time it got there Sean had scored his first high school touchdown and his father missed it."

Thanks to the WPIAL's new football realignment, Render will get to make that bus ride, and a couple more like it, sometime in the next two seasons.

The WPIAL will go from four to three football conferences in Classes AAAA and AAA for the next two seasons. Plum, along with Penn Hills and Woodland Hills, have been moved into Section 2 -- the WPIAL doesn't use conference names -- in Class AAAA along with Upper St. Clair, Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon and Peters Township.

That means that three of the teams in the nine-team conference are in the eastern suburbs -- on one side of the Monongahela River - - and the others are in the South Hills. Trying to cross a river, any river in the Pittsburgh area, during rush hour can be a nightmare.

The move to three conferences in Class AAAA and AAA was due, in part, because schools with good teams said they were having problems finding season openers. In the past, the WPIAL allowed schools to schedule their first games then gave teams a schedule for weeks two through nine. Now, the WPIAL will supply a nine-week schedule with most teams beginning conference play the first week.

That's another thing Render, and a number of other coaches, are not thrilled about -- not having a game in which to work out the bugs before playing a conference opponent.

"There's no question the conference schedule is going to be tough and it's going to be a lot more expensive," he said, pointing out there have been discussions about Upper St. Clair not sending its band to away games at Penn Hills, Plum or Woodland Hills.

"At a time when most school districts are trying to find ways to save money, the WPIAL just made it more expensive for us to go to games."

He is not alone in his concern about getting his team to a game through rush-hour traffic on a Friday night in the fall. Plum officials have expressed the same concern about going to Upper St. Clair or Mt. Lebanon.

Render said there was a meeting of Class AAAA coaches in the fall that he did not attend because the Panthers were getting ready for a playoff game. He said maybe he should have gone to the meeting and voiced his opinion.

"Not that they would have listened to me," he said. "But we were getting ready for a playoff game and that was my priority at the time. I thought that was more important than going to a meeting."

The price of doing business in football also went up for Chartiers Valley, which was moved from the Big Eight Conference in Class AAA to the Parkway Conference. …

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