Matzie, others meet with PIAA on leveling the playing field in public-private school sports competitions

Equity, enforcement of student transfer rules key topics

HARRISBURG, June 18 – State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, and fellow members of the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee heard testimony this morning from the director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athlete Association – the state’s governing body for high school athletics – and others to address concerns that private schools have an unfair advantage over public schools under the current state playoff system – particularly when it comes to high school basketball and football.

A central topic: how to deal fairly and effectively with situations in which students transfer schools. PIAA rules prohibit student athletes from transferring for athletic reasons. While the rules are designed to prevent abuses of the system – such as when a student moves to a school to compete in playoffs and then moves back – Matzie noted that many students transfer for legitimate socio-economic, safety or family-related reasons.

“Every case is different,” Matzie said. “We need to consider those circumstances.”

PIAA recently tightened the rules to mandate that if a student transfers during the season, he or she must sit out 21 days before becoming eligible to complete in PIAA-sanctioned events. And if a student is eligible to participate in 50 percent of a season at one school, he or she would not be eligible to play that season at the transfer school. But problems persist. As one charter school representative pointed out, some schools enforce the transfer rules more rigorously than others.

The association is considering a rule that would mandate that if a student transfers any time after ninth grade, he or she would be ineligible for postseason play at the new school for one year.

Matzie said he supports the idea of changing the system to level the playing field, but he cautioned that there are many more issues to be examined and resolved.  

The PIAA recently considered but voted to defeat changes that would lead to separating private and public schools in postseason competitions.

The full hearing is available here.