Two of WPIAL's 6 football championships will not be played at Heinz Field
February 10, 2016 2:25 PM
Clairton teammates celebrate with their trophy after defeating Jeannette in the WPIAL Class A championship at Heinz Field. A steering committee has determined that this season's Class 2A and 1A games will not be played at Heinz Field.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One of the reasons the WPIAL was against the PIAA’s plan of expanding classifications in sports was because it would prevent the WPIAL from playing all its football championships in one day at Heinz Field.
But it turns out the WPIAL will still play 66 percent of its football title games in one day at Heinz.
The WPIAL announced Wednesday that four football championships will be played at Heinz Friday, Nov. 18 — and two will be played at an undetermined site the following weekend.
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The WPIAL made the decision on the heels of the PIAA’s expanded classification plan that goes into effect for the 2016-17 school year. Under the plan, football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball will go from four to six classifications.
Since 1986, the WPIAL has played all four football championships at either Heinz or Three Rivers Stadium. But with six classes, the league can’t play every title game in one day, and it is too costly to rent Heinz for two days. Plus, there could be scheduling conflicts with Pitt and the Steelers.
So, the WPIAL has decided to play the Class 6A, 5A, 4A and 3A games at Heinz. The 2A and 1A championships will be played a week later. The WPIAL is taking bids from sites that want to host championships in all other sports.
“We were stuck,” said WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley. “I didn’t want to be the guy who had to pick and choose on who would play at Heinz. But with what the [PIAA] did, it forced us to have to do this.”
The winners of the 6A, 5A and 4A championships will move on to the PIAA quarterfinals Nov. 25-26. The 3A winner will have a week off before moving to the PIAA semifinals Dec. 2-3. The 2A and 1A winners also will move on to the PIAA semifinals.
O’Malley knows some schools in smaller classifications won’t be happy, but he pointed out that in a survey of schools a few months ago, the majority of schools provided feedback that said the championship venue was not a big concern.
“We can’t play every game at Heinz,” O’Malley said. “We decided to give four of the six classes the opportunity to play there. It is what it is. … We could have only taken three classes there, but our board didn’t want to do that.
“The biggest debate [among the WPIAL strategic planning committee] was whether to take 3A football to Heinz. I guarantee you there will be yipping about this from somebody. But we can possibly creatively rotate the fourth class that goes in there every year.”
The WPIAL made the Heinz Field announcement shortly before the steering committees of all sports in the WPIAL met to decide conference and section alignments for the next school year. Those alignments will be released Monday after approval by the league’s board of directors.
The steering committees acted, based on directives from the WPIAL strategic planning committee on how many sections will be in each classification and how many teams will make the playoffs.
But here are some other noteworthy items released Wednesday:
• In football, Class 6A, 5A, 4A and 3A will have eight teams in the playoffs; Class 2A and 1A will have 16.
• All football teams will be given a nine-week schedule. Under a new PIAA rule, teams can elect to play only one preseason scrimmage instead of two. But the WPIAL is letting teams decide on their own if they want to play two scrimmages or schedule a game instead of a second scrimmage.
• In boys and girls basketball, the top four teams in every section will make the playoffs. In boys basketball, Class 3A will have four sections. The other five classifications will have three sections. In girls basketball, Class 5A will have four sections and the other five classes will have three sections.
• In baseball and softball, the top four teams in each section will qualify for the playoffs. That is a change from previous years when only three teams from each section qualified.
• In boys and girls soccer, four teams from each section will qualify for the playoffs. The WPIAL had been taking only the top three.
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.
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