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Savran: Time for Perry to join WPIAL

Saturday, November 09, 2002

High school sports have always occupied a very narrow niche. People in a particular community focus only on the exploits of the athletes and teams in their own school. Once in a while, there are high school stories that transcend the normally provincial boundaries.

That's why it was so unusual to have two such stories dominate the sports/news cycle these past couple of weeks.

L'affair Central Catholic was front page news, topped TV newscasts, and was substantial grist for the talk show mills. It should be noted that the salacious nature of the alleged hazing incident was what propelled it to such a high level of attention. If those kids had shaved heads and decorated them with spray paint, little would have been reported. Introduce sex, and you've got yourself a full-blown sensationalized tabloid dream.

How the case was handled is probably less important than when it was handled, but not nearly as important as the fact that at least it was handled eventually. The school probably would have done itself a favor by informing the parents, thus enlisting whatever help they could have offered in eliciting information from their sons. That wouldn't have been any guarantee. We were all 17 once. No kid is going to willingly "rat-out" a friend or teammate. But getting the parents involved might have expedited the process.

However, I would ask those criticizing the school and/or diocese for not acting more quickly, what else could they have done?

They couldn't suspend or expel the perpetrators on the basis of a mere allegation. Imagine the howls of protest then! They needed corroboration, which they weren't able to get until the police entered the picture.

Stonewalling mom, dad, coach and principal so and so is one thing. Clamming up under interrogation from detective or inspector so and so is quite another.

Then came the related story of Andrew Johnson's transfer from Central Catholic to North Hills High School. More important than the transfer was his wish to play football for North Hills. Equally important was the notion that he could play immediately. Thankfully, it would appear it's become a non-issue. It should be.

Had Johnson been allowed to suit up for North Hills last night, an absolutely horrible precedent would have been set.

Let's assume a player is on a team that doesn't make the WPIAL playoffs. But this kid wants to play in the playoffs, so the Monday before the first round, he declares his intention to transfer to a school that is in the playoffs.

Worse yet, what if a kid, after playing for a team that lost its first game in the playoffs, decides he doesn't want his season to end and attempts to transfer to and play for a school that's still alive in the playoffs? Maybe even the one that beat him the previous week?

The WPIAL would probably never allow that to happen, but the league needs to further clarify its position on a transfer's eligibility and must also expand it to include any number of potential nightmare scenarios.

That organization has plenty of issues on its plate at present, but let me make room for another. It's high time for the City League to disband, with those schools being absorbed into the WPIAL. Or at the very least, it's time for Perry Traditional Academy to secede from the City League and pick on somebody its own size.

Let me make clear that I'm not trying to punish Perry's excellence, but rather to challenge it.

When the best the competition can do is attempt to score, with no chance whatsoever of winning or even being competitive, something is askew. Why, that's downright close to becoming Major League Baseball.

As a magnet school, Perry has the advantage of being able to lure players from all parts of the city. Parochial and other private schools compete in the WPIAL, why not them? In addition, the City League has schools that range in classification from Class AA to Class AAAA, so you have the small facing the large. Why not have these schools assimilate into the WPIAL so that they can play teams of like size?

And don't think the kids involved wouldn't welcome the challenge. Don't you think the Perry football players would love to compete against Class AAA powers such as Hopewell, Thomas Jefferson and West Allegheny? Of course they would.

Some would cite the tradition of the City League.

As grand as that tradition has been, under the current set-up, that tradition isn't being advanced, it's being tarnished. At best, the City League is ignored. Forbes Field, Pitt Stadium and Duquesne Gardens also had tradition. But time marches on. It's time for Perry, and its City League mates, to march into the WPIAL. Who knows? Perry might even give up a point.


Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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