One person's change of mind will have a gigantic effect on the state of Class A basketball in the WPIAL.
The PIAA yesterday overturned the WPIAL and made Elijah Minnie eligible to play basketball immediately at Lincoln Park. Minnie is a talented 6-foot-8 junior who had already been ruled ineligible twice by the WPIAL and once by the PIAA. Both organizations said he transferred for athletic intent, which is against WPIAL rules.
The WPIAL ruled Minnie ineligible this fall and the PIAA upheld the WPIAL at an appeals hearing. In the past, the next option for an ineligible athlete would have been to take the case to court to seek an injunction to play. But then the PIAA turned around and told the WPIAL to rehear the case because Minnie and his lawyer, Craig Lee, claimed they had new evidence in the case.
The WPIAL had another hearing with Minnie in December and again ruled him ineligible by a unanimous vote. But Minnie appealed his case to the PIAA again - and won this time by a 3-2 vote.
When the PIAA heard Minnie's first appeal, the organization ruled him ineligible by a 3-2 vote. Four of the five members who heard the appeal Thursday were the same as the first time. One was different. However, someone who ruled Minnie ineligible the first time changed their vote this time. The WPIAL would not reveal the names of the five members who heard the case yesterday, or who changed their vote.
But one changed vote will make one major difference in WPIAL basketball. Minnie will make a big difference for Lincoln Park. Put a talented 6-8 kid on a Class A team and see what happens anywhere. I wonder how Union feels about the changed vote? Union has one of its best teams in years and the Scotties have a 10-1 record. They play in the same section as Lincoln Park and both teams are 2-0 in section. Union plays Lincoln Park Tuesday.
WPIAL officials are extremely upset at the PIAA's decision.
"It's just frustrating," said WPIAL Executive Director Tim O'Malley.
I will not comment on whether I believe Minnie should be eligible or ineligible. But I will tell you that this transfer thing with the PIAA continues to be a mess - and even more so now. Whether the PIAA realizes it, the organization has set quite a precedent with "rehearing" cases. The way it is now, if at first you don't succeed at hearings and don't like rulings, keep trying new ideas and keep trying new hearings. Minnie went 1 for 4, but that's all he needed. And one person's change of mind will affect many in Class A basketball all over the state. Lincoln Park was in the PIAA Class A title game the past two seasons. The had 6-11 Devontae Watson the past two years but he is now at Temple.
"Having to re-hear cases is something that has come about only in the past year or two," O'Malley said. "The frustrating thing in all of this is that in a summary review we received from the PIAA after they upheld our ruling the first time, all five members who voted originally were of the opinion that the transfer would not have occurred, if not for the sport of basketball. However, in that first appeal hearing two members [of the PIAA Board of Control] felt he should still be able to play because they felt it was in the best interest of the kid.
"The precedent has been established now. Those people who are dissatisfied with a finding can now go and develop some new information to have the opportunity to be re-heard."
From Olympics to high school pool
Imagine a world-record holder and a winner of four gold medals returning to swim against high school competition. It is happening in Colorado.
Missy Franklin, who won four Olympic gold medals this summer and set a world record in one event, has decided to swim her senior year at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo. She competed in her first high school meet this week and won the 200-yard individual medley by - get this - 20 seconds. Her time was 2 minutes, 2.10 seconds. To put that in perspective, the top 200 medley relay time in the WPIAL this year is 2:07.51.
Franklin's winning time in the 500 was 4:57.71. The top WPIAL time this year is 5:10.99.
Franklin is receiving criticism from some people for swimming in high school. Why? She is still a high school student. If she wants to swim with her classmates, why shouldn't she be able to compete? Why should she have to sit out just because she is good? Maybe she could help the team win a state championship.Johnson makes impact
Remember Aaron Johnson, a talented basketball player a few years ago at Moon High School? It had been almost two years since he played a basketball game, but he is suddenly making a big impact on the Clarion University team.
After a very nice career at Moon, Johnson decided to attend Princeton, but he did not play basketball. He transferred to Clarion University for this school year, but did not play in games the first semester. He started playing only this semester and had two "double doubles" in his first three games. In a 90-79 victory against Central Penn earlier this week, Johnson had 19 points and 15 rebounds. Another former WPIAL player, Gateway's Mike Kromka, had 12 points and 11 rebounds in the same game.
Kromka leads Clarion in scoring at 13.5 points a game and is also averaging 9.5 rebounds.
Johnson is a 6-foot-4 forward who in three games is averaging 12.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.