Tuesday, March 3, 2009


One subject that never dies in Western Pennsylvania is high school recruiting for sports. On multiple occasions during the basketball regular season, I ended up discussing my thoughts on recruiting with various people. I tend to fall into the minority on the topic, meaning I don't work myself into a frenzy on the subject.

With North Catholic and Sewickley Academy winning WPIAL boys basketball titles over the weekend and the North Catholic girls adding to their already massive trophy case, recruiting remains fresh on the minds of a lot of sports fans.

Here's an interesting story concerning the Westinghouse High School girls coach in today's Post-Gazette:



Clairton Alum said...

Mike, i dont understand how this issue doesnt bother you...or at the very least leave a bad taste in your mouth. I am going to assume that you played sports as i did. i dont know where you played or how big your school was, but for arguments sake lets say you were in a single a or double a school. You have a select number of kids to pull from for your athletic programs. you are lumped into a class with other schools of similar size that have the same relative demographics. Now insert whatever catholic/private/charter school you wish and put them into your section/conference/class. Where a single a school has 80-100 boys/girls to pull from, you are now going up against a team that has COUNTIES of boys/girls they can pull from. They literally have 1000's of kids to select from to build a team. You cant tell me thats fair. No one can make a case to me to explain how that is fair. North Catholic girls just won their 15th championship. Coincidence? They played Mt. Alvernia...another recruting school. The 4 schools in the final 4 i believe were all private schools. Sewickely Academy and North Catholic both won boys titles...more private schools. And what does the news media do? Instead of Channel 11 investing recruiting at these schools they praise NC for winning boys and girls titles. Its sickening. One of a couple of things need to happen to remedy this situation. either kids that go to private schools need to go back to their home districts to play sports or private schools need to play a minimum of Triple A or higher. Its the only way to level the playing field. After watching Sewickley play, they could have easily won the Triple A title, easily. Its not fair...

Public School Defender said...

I am going to back this up as people all over this board and posting should. This is a big issue and people are celebrating these private schools and not looking into the bigger picture here.

I came from Union Area High School in New Castle, PA. Played there for 3 years and moved on to other things. We are probably best know for our cinderella run in 2002-2003 to the WPIAL championship and PIAA runner up. OK enough about that, but that year we had Seweckily Academy in our section who had Corey Diethorn (central catholic) Antonio DiMaria (ended up at canevin) and the next year came back with Amir Johnson and Corey Bradford.

Now my senior class at Union had 38 kids. Not a typo, we had 38. SWAC had a small number, but how is it fair that they can get a kid from Cent. Catholic and have them on the team? Aren't you pulling from Cent. Catholic's enrollment? This year they get Schramm from Knoch, aren't they getting kids from Knoch's enrollment?

Too many times we put these catholic/private schools on display instead of being fair and putting the foot down. Shame on the PIAA for allowing these kids to play. Maybe the Justin Hosack ruling will help matters but i feel if you bring a kid from a AAA school you should have to play AAA enrollment.

Its not fair to the Class A schools who have small numbers to have to play large enrollment schools because they can go out and get kids from different enrollments.

Clairton Alum we beat you guys in 2003 for the WPIAL title, but that was a winning year for class A because two public schools were in the finals. Hats off to Clairton.

mike_kovak said...

Where I grew up, kids often ended up at Bishop McCort. During my playing days, I remember McCort hosting camps and that is where they occasionally found players.

They asked my cousin to join their football team when he was in high school but he stayed in public school.

I know I'm going to get blasted for saying this, but here is why I believe this topic is a lot of hype:

Say your daughter is an excellent french horn player but the local school doesn't provide much in ways of band or a music program. So, your daughter attends another school specifically because of a music program.

To me, the situations are somewhat similar. Yet, I've never heard anyone complain about the latter.

Ok, bash away.

Anonymous said...

Your point is well taken.

However, from the athletic end the debate comes down to this:

Private schools do not have to play by the same rules as public schools. That's the rub.

mike_kovak said...

Point taken.

As were most of the points brought up so far.

Clairton Alum said...

Thanks Union...

Mike I understand your point, however i would call it a stretch to try and relate those two things. It is perfectly legal for students to go to other districts if what they want to do is not offered at the district they are in. Students do this for music programs and other things all the time. To do it for basketball because the school you're in isnt good enough isnt a valid reason to switch. If that were the case, why not let the one star on the CM girls basketball team go play for Mt. Lebo (if they had a star, i didnt follow them)? Thats not allowed, right? Thats not legal. Yet have that same CM girl star go play for north catholic or quigley or mt. alvernia or oakland catholic or central and its perfectly fine? Thats my problem. These private schools get away with murder. SWAC has an AAU coach on their staff. Schramm just happened to play for that AAU coach...now Schramm is at SWAC from Knock. Thats not fair. If they are going to pull from that type of area they need to play a minimum of AAA ball...plain and simple. If they want to recruit, they have to play with the big boys. I mean, in all honesty, is it really a challenge for them to recruit a team from all over SWPA and then go play single A teams from towns that can barely fill a school? Of course not...thats why when you think about it, its amazing what a school like Clairton does year in and year out with the enrollment that they have. 8th smallest school in the WPIAL...yet every year come playoff time in football and basketball they are at or near the finals.

And on another note...i wonder how much money that french horn player is helping to bring in to school districts, the WPIAL and PIAA...hmmm...you have to wonder if the money wasnt there would the WPIAL still be as lax with their recruiting enforcement? Thats where your french horn comparison hits a wall...the sad truth is no one cares about the french horn player...but highschool football and basketball is a business that makes money for districts, the wpial and the piaa...and the sad truth is those organizations sell out fair play in the name of running a highschool sports business.

And thats exactly why my emails to O'Malley at the WPIAL, news organizations in the region and the PIAA go unanswered...no one can answer me as to how this is fair and/or legal...

Public School Defender said...

Mike I really enjoy the column and the blogs. Keeps me entertained while at work and also keeps me posted on teams from that region (i.e. Carmichaels vs. Neshannock...Nesh was from Lawrence Co. where I am from so I looked this site up and knew a little more about them)

It is really funny that you have mentioned this band comparison because I had this conversation with a coach and he brought up that point. My thought towards that is....they are competing. Yea sure they may have battle of the bands or a festival, but there isn't a WPIAL championship or PIAA title at stake, band is considered an activity and isn't on the higher scale as say football, basketball etc. Class A schools have very little to work with, and when a small public schools builds a program (Clairton, Union, Neshannock etc....) and has their own kids on the floor, its better than having a glorified AAU team that a private school can have. How can it be fair to build a program from grade 5 and make them better only to have SWAC or Serra bring in kids from another school who made them players and take away from a public school.

Think about Hopewell for a minute. You don't think Justin Hosack would have helped Hopewell in AAA this year? Instead Hopewell gets screwed because their starting guards wants to leave after they made him the player he is starting at 5th or 6th grade. Its unfair to the schools they leave not just the ones they play.

The band comparison is a good one, and you make a valid point, but you aren't taking championships and titles from public schools. You are just building a better band to play from.

Again, I enjoy the blog and really enjoy hashing these issues out. Something needs to be done, and Clairton Alum I hope your efforts don't go unnoticed for much longer....

Anonymous said...


I don't think your musci analogy is a good example, because there are no rules that say that you can't transfer to another school for "musical intent", but there are rules that state you can't transfer for "athletic intent" ande play PIAA sanctioned sports - that in my opinion is a huge difference. Also, I don't see any alumni "sponsoring" (paying the tuition) of musicians, but they do sponsor athletes.

The advantage of pulling from a much larger geographic area in itself is huge, then throw in the schools that recruit and the playing field is anything but equal.

As Clairon Alum has suggested, the private schools should have to play in AAA or AAAA. The A and AA public schools are the ones that are at the biggest disadvantge - honestly I don't have as much as a problem with Central Catholic (because they are playing in the highest classification) as I do with all of the privates that participate in Class A.

The private school supporters that say that they don't recruit are in denial. Ask Charel Allen and AJ Jackson - Kennedy Catholic went as far as to suggest that they would find a family for AJ to live.

Anonymous said...

The list of schools in the PIAA basketball playoffs was posted in last sunday's post-gazette. If you look at it you will see the large number of private or parochial schools that make it in the A and AA classifications.It is that wat every year. We all know that being able to bring kids in from several districts is a huge advantage at that level. I agree that those schools should have to play in larger classifications.
go to a state game and check out the benches. On a true "A" public school team you might see one or two capable substitutes and a few more bodies filling some seats.
The parochial school will have several capable substitutes (perhaps next year's starters) and a longer bench than the public school.

mike_kovak said...

I actually wrote a column before the start of the 2008 WPIAL playoffs. I'm going to post it momentarily.

Clairton Alum, I applaud you.

Clairton Alum said...

I just want a fair playing field...obviously the WPIAL and PIAA dont share my views. What about doing what Philly does? Its called the Philadelphia Catholic League. If they want to recruit, let them play each other. Do that, make them play AAA, do something...just dont sit there and do nothing. I just want one answer...one real answer from the WPIAL or PIAA.

Anonymous said...

serra stunk for the last ten years in most of its sports they ran from clairton to the black hills and got lucky bowen knew this and left yough to return to serra and now he`s trying to leave knowning clairton will make him look stupid.private schools don`t win all the time yes they get some players but they choke all the time.Let there parents shelter them and pay the money for they could not compete with the public school kids rochester,clairton,union,quipps.jayhawks