"I'm surprised, but when it comes to (the WPIAL) you know to expect the unexpected."
"I can't believe what they did to the Tri-County South."
"You just can't keep any rivalries any more."
Those were a small sampling of comments from the eight football coaches I had the chance to speak with since the WPIAL released its football alignment for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Judging from reaction, it's not well-received.
Let's recap the major changes.
1. Class AAAA and Class AAA went from four conferences to three.
2. The vast majority of conferences have nine teams. There are eight-team and 10-team conferences.
3. The larger conferences means teams will not have to schedule their open date. Ten-team conferences will play nothing but conference games during the regular season. The WPIAL will schedule the open dates for nine-team leagues. Those schedules should be released in two weeks.
4. In Class AAAA and AAA, five teams per conference will qualify for the playoffs. The 16th team will be determined via a wild-card system.
For a look at the alignment, please read the post below.
Now for some thoughts on the alignment, by classification.
- Section 3 looks weaker on paper than the other two conferences with Gateway and McKeesport being the only consistent programs.
- Being grouped with Penn Hills and Woodland Hills does not mean the end of football for Canon-McMillan or Peters Township. It's Quad-A. To be good, it means beating Penn Hills and Woodland Hills, whether it's during the regular season or the postseason.
- One reason I like the alignment is it eliminates the unbalanced non-conference schedules for Class AAAA schools. Some play mostly Class AAA competition, while others face a steady diet of Quad-A powers from other conferences.
- One reason I don't like the alignment is it likely eliminates the chances for schools like Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Gateway and North Allegheny to schedule intriguing out-of-state matchups.
- Trinity looks like a big winner. The Hillers return a bulk of talent from 2011, and the mashup of the Big Eight and Keystone Conference looks manageable. FYI, Trinity has defeated West Mifflin six consecutive seasons.
- Ringgold might have wanted to stay with more Keystone Conference teams, but adding Belle Vernon and Elizabeth Forward to the schedule should bring more fans out.
- Gotta feel bad for Chartiers Valley.
- Section 1 and Section 2 look even on paper. Of course, nothing can compare with the powerful Parkway Conferece and it's nice to see that powerhouse league intact.
- Washington can't seem to stay in a conference for very long. The Century Conference was a nice fit for the Prexies and some in the conference don't like them being shipped off to the Interstate Conference.
- Washington and Waynesburg once had an intense rivalry. Can it be recaptured? Ehhhh.
- Not sure why McGuffey and Washington are in different conferences. Hopefully the WPIAL recognizes these two should at least be scheduled for non-conference games the next two years. Last time they played, there was an overflow crowd at McGuffey.
- If I ruled the WPIAL, Washington would stay in the Century Conference and South Allegheny would be in the Interstate. Makes sense geographically, and Washington could maintain rivalries with South Fayette and McGuffey.
- Wow. Just wow.
- Section 4, which I will call the Black Hills Conference until told otherwise, has an unfair glut of high-caliber teams. Clairton won its third straight PIAA title and owns the WPIAL record for consecutive wins. Bishop Canevin reached the semifinals. Brentwood and Fort Cherry won playoff games. All told, seven of the 10 teams reached the postseason.
- Given the strength of the new-look Black Hills, California and Monessen won't be annual locks for postseason play like the teams were in the Tri-County South.
- Beth-Center has wanted out of the TCS for a couple years. Not only did B-C not get its wish, the Bulldogs are the top dog in the WPIAL's weakest conference. Winning postseason games after playing lesser competition is a difficult task.