About 10 years ago, the PIAA effectively eliminated eastern and western brackets for the state playoffs in a number of sports. Some teams from eastern Pennsylvania play through the western wide of the bracket.
The PIAA's move sometimes means a long bus trip for teams in the west.
Like Blackhawk baseball.
Blackhawk will play in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals tomorrow in Scotland against Harriton, a District 1 team from just outside of Philadelphia. Scotland is near Chambersburg, and according to Mapquest.com, Blackhawk has about a 215-mile, 3 1/2-hour bus trip to look forward to tomorrow morning.
Really? A team has to travel more than 200 miles and more than three hours to play a Philadelphia-area team IN THE QUARTERFINALS? Does that really make sense.
In this day and age of high schools having shrinking athletic budgets, the PIAA makes Blackhawk take a long road trip. It won't be a cheap day when you consider the cost of the bus and also meals. To be safe, Blackhawk should probably leave by 7 or 7:30 a.m. When will the team get back? It will probably have to stop for dinner, so Blackhawk might get back around, maybe, 8 or so?
Harriton is much closer to Scotland, but Harriton is still looking at a 140-mile trip.
Blackhawk isn't the first team to have to travel far for a PIAA playoff game. It happens in the semifinals in basketball, too. But that's at least the semifinals, and not quarterfinals.
Does it really have to be this way? The reason the PIAA eliminated eastern and western brackets is because there are no longer an equal number of teams on both sides of the state. Eastern teams were complaining that representation in the state playoffs shouldn't be even in the west and east when the east has many more teams in some classes.
For example, there are 111 teams in eastern Pa. in Class AAA baseball. The west has only 52. In Class AAAA, the east has 125 teams and the west has 36. It's understandable that the east wanted more representation, so the PIAA cut the number of qualifiers from the west and put some eastern teams in the western side of the bracket.
But still, the travel is absurd for some games. Then you sometimes have two eastern teams playing for a state championship.
Why not think of this in the future? Let the east have more teams in the PIAA playoffs in some classes, but still have them play in an east bracket. For example, in Class AAA let the east have 12 teams in the PIAA playoffs and the west have six. Sure, that means byes for some teams and some teams wouldn't have to play as many games to get to the PIAA final.
But everyone would still be in the state playoffs, and isn't that what matters? The travel thing is getting a little absurd.
The Major League Baseball draft starts tomorrow and I keep hearing people say that if Brendan McKay is drafted, it's a no-brainer for him to forget about the University of Louisville and sign with a MLB team. I don't think people know that Louisville's program is pretty darn good.
Louisville was in the College World Series last year and will play in the NCAA Super Regionals this weekend, the equivalent of the Sweet 16.
Still, it says here that if McKay is taken high enough in the draft, he signs.
It's good to see Bill Swan back in WPIAL hoops coaching. Swan was named last week as the new boys coach at Mount Pleasant.
The guy can be intense, but so what. Swan proved himself at Connellsville and then for eight years at Hempfield before being let go a few seasons ago. I don't know what happened at Hempfield but I do know Swan is a good coach.
Calabria the coach
Montverde Academy in Florida has a top high school basketball program that produces a number of Division I college players. The school is adding a prep school team starting this season, and the coach is a former WPIAL star.
Dante Calabria, who starred at Blackhawk High School in the early 1990s, will coach Montverde’s prep team. After Blackhawk, Calabria went on to play at the University of North Carolina and then had a long career playing professionally overseas.(Calabria is pictured spinning the basketball for the 1992 Post-Gazette Fabulous 5).
Calabria will be inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame at ceremonies Friday night.