During a weekend full of change for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, one thing stayed the same: State basketball pairings.
After putting off a decision on whether to stick with the traditional bracketing for its most lucrative championship or switch to regionalized pairings that leaned heavily on geography, the PIAA stuck with the status quo.
By a 20-8 vote of the Board of Directors recently, the PIAA will stay with pairings similar to those it has used since it broadly expanded the basketball playoffs 40 years ago for the 1971-72 season.
The traditional method of bracketing has been to pair district champions and runner-ups with lower place winners from other districts. But because those pairings were based on place and not geography, some of those first round games paired teams up to 100 miles apart.
With athletic budgets tightening, member schools had asked PIAA to consider regionalizing the brackets to ensure less travel. The PIAA staff developed brackets accordingly, but in some cases, that concept paired teams from the same district in the opening round.
For example, the proposed Southwest Region in Class AA grouped all of the District 7 qualifiers into one quarterfinal bracket.
That idea was distasteful to much of the Board, which decided to stay with brackets that ensured no matchups of teams from the same district in the first and rarely in the second round. There are some exceptions: In Class AAA and Class AAAA boys and girls, the WPIAL champion will face the lowest WPIAL qualifier in the opening round.
While the basketball pairings, which had been the subject of considerable debate, remained static, much did not.
This weekend's meeting was the first with Dr. Robert Lombardi as executive director following this month's retirement of Brad Cashman, who served as executive director for the last 18 years.
The Board also hired retiring Pennsylvania State Police Captain Patrick Gebhart, a long-time basketball official, as its new assistant executive director. Gebhart, a 30-year veteran of the force, was selected from a pool of 60 applicants for the $60,000 per year post.
"We are very pleased with our selection," Dr. Lombardi said. "He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of our officials' program and will be an asset to all officials as we continue to build our officials' education program."
Gebhart will take over Lombardi's duties as head of officials. He will begin his duties on Aug. 13.
The PIAA also conducted its first meeting with an entirely new set of officers. Jim Zack, superintendent of the Shamokin Area School and District 4 chairman, is the new president, replacing former Central Bucks South principal and District 1 chairman W. Rodney Stone.
Longtime District 2 chairman Frank Majikes is the new vice-president and District 9 chairman James Manners is the new treasurer. They replace Ray Wotkowski of District 6 and Jack Wabby of District 11, respectively.
In other PIAA news/action:
* The organization is headed for a financial loss for 2011-2012, approximately 1.5% below its budgeted bottom line. A weak spring season - the PIAA was $36,000 below budget - helped push the PIAA into the red.
* The PIAA's Team Wrestling Championships were scheduled to shrink to 16-team brackets (Class AAA was a 20-team bracket and Class AA was a 17-team bracket last year), but a recommendation to expand both classifications to 20 teams passed by a 25-3 vote. District 11 was going to lose its runner-up in the proposed brackets, but the wrestling steering committee, which made the recommendation, felt it was important to break policy to allow the 11-AAA runner-up in the field. In Class AA, District 4, 7, 9 and 10 received additional qualifiers.
* Similarly, the PIAA Class AA Southwest Region Tournament, traditionally conducted at the War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, was set to lose two qualifiers per weight, going from a 14-man bracket to 12-man bracket, but the Board restored the 14-man bracket for the next two seasons.
* The Board approved the bracketing for girls' volleyball this fall, but tabled approval boys' volleyball bracketing for the spring. The girls' volleyball championship has undergone a big change, eliminating pool play from the format and going to straight, single-elimination bracketing. That format had been used in the past. But the PIAA decided to hold off on approving the same format for the boys' championship, preferring to gather information from the girls' championship before deciding on the final format.
* The PIAA Lacrosse Championships will return to Hersheypark Stadium for the next two years. The PIAA had bid out the lacrosse site in large part because all of the finalists since the debut of the championships in 2009 have come from either District 1 or District 12. A District 1 or District 12 location probably would have had the upper hand, but the only site that submitted a proposal was PP&L Park in Chester at a cost of $20,000 per year. The PIAA decided to go with the Hersheypark Stadium bid of $0.
*The PIAA as an organization will not be directly affected by the recent passage of House Bill 1901, but all of its member schools will be. The bill requires Pennsylvania public schools to report an enormous amount of information to the Department of Education annually, ostensibly to ensure that the state's public schools are in compliance with Title IX. The original bill required the PIAA to collect the information, but that duty was shifted to the Department of Education when the legislature realized PIAA did not have adequate staff for the undertaking. That information must be collected throughout the 2012-2013 school year; the first report is required by Sept. 1, 2013.