Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sharing the Wealth Sports Co-Ops Enable Schools to Join Forces, Help Each Other

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sharing the Wealth Sports Co-Ops Enable Schools to Join Forces, Help Each Other

Article excerpt

When Quaker Valley and Cornell school districts formed a football cooperative in 2012, the uniforms reflected the agreement.

While the Cornell players wore Quaker Valley's colors of black, white and gold on jerseys emblazoned with "Quakers," a gold "C" painted on the back of their helmets paid tribute to their true school.

That small gesture reflected how the co-op, and many others like it throughout the years, have thrived in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League.

Quaker Valley and Cornell will field separate teams next season to avoid moving up a class when Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association football expands from four to six classifications, but both parties said the co-op was not only productive on the field but also positive off the field.

"The kids did a phenomenal job from the beginning," Quaker Valley coach John Tortorea said. "They just kind of accepted each other quick, and that's what made the co-op successful."

There are at least 25 co-ops within the WPIAL, involving about 50 schools and 15 different sports - nearly every sport the WPIAL offers. According to the PIAA constitution and bylaws, co-ops must involve at least one school with a boys or girls enrollment, depending on the sport, of fewer than 300 students in grades 9-11. This prevents two powerhouse sports programs from banding together for competitive advantage, as co-ops are meant for smaller schools to get the assistance of larger schools' infrastructure.

Also, according to the PIAA bylaws, the public school districts of participating member schools must be contiguous and/or overlap.

Quaker Valley and Cornell were one of just a few co-ops in the WPIAL's most popular sport, football. Quigley Catholic and Freedom Area, Penn Hills and Trinity Christian, and Blackhawk and Beaver County Christian also have football co-ops.

Bill Sacco, Cornell's athletic director, said the transition into the co-op was smooth because Mr. Tortorea used to be an assistant coach at Cornell, and Edward Dawson, Cornell's coach before the merger, joined Mr. Tortorea's staff. The two teams had also played each other in prior seasons. The only challenges turned out to be logistical "nightmares," Mr. Sacco said, that required a lot of communication between the two schools' administrations.

The schools had to coordinate transportation for athletes, cheerleaders and bands for practices and games. And because Cornell's school day ends earlier than Quaker Valley's, football players attended a special after-school study hall until practice.

That discouraged about four Cornell kids from playing.

"They didn't want to be bothered with catching the bus to go over there to Quaker Valley," Mr. Sacco said."Some said they didn't want to wear Quaker Valley colors to play football. …

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