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Butler denied grid playoff shot

WPIAL board votes to rule Golden Tornado ineligible for District 10 postseason

BUTLER TWP — Butler’s varsity football team ended a nine-year playoff drought last season by qualifying for postseason play in District 10.

Its 2021 season ended with a 40-21 loss to McDowell in the D-10 Class 6A championship game — and may be the Golden Tornado’s last football playoff game for a while. The WPIAL Board of Control voted Tuesday to refuse Butler playoff eligibility through another district.

“(WPIAL Executive Director) Amy Scheuneman called me Friday to inform me this vote would be taking place,” Butler athletic director Bill Mylan said. “What I don’t understand is, why now? It was OK for us to qualify for the District 10 playoffs two years ago and now it’s not.

“That’s my question. Why are they suddenly making this decision now? It’s unfair to our kids.”

Scheuneman said via email that she won’t comment on this decision “until after the official letter is sent to Butler.”

Butler decided to pull its football team out of the WPIAL following consecutive 0-10 seasons in 2018 and 2019, extending the program’s string of losing seasons to 22. The Tornado opted to play an independent schedule in 2020 as an “associate member” of District 10. That district voted to allow Butler eligibility for its playoffs. The WPIAL did not block that decision at the time.

“Had we made this move without being eligible to qualify for the playoffs all along, fine,” Butler football coach Eric Christy said. “But to allow these kids a taste of it, to have us make the playoffs for the first time in years, then have it taken away ... This is hard to understand.”

Christy said last year’s seniors set a preseason goal of reaching the playoffs.

“It was a good goal and they achieved it,” he said. “We want to keep building on positives. The goal for this coming year was to win a playoff game, something this program hasn’t done in 30 years (1992).

“Now these kids are being told, ‘no, you can’t do that.’ They are being punished that way for some reason. I just don’t get it.”

Butler plans to appeal to the PIAA in an effort to get the WPIAL’s decision overturned. Mylan does not know what kind of timetable that may involve.

He acknowledged that this WPIAL vote “certainly won’t have a positive effect” on the Tornado football program.

“But it also won’t change our plans over the next couple of years,” Mylan emphasized. “The move to District 10 has proven nothing but positive for us in football. We’ll continue moving forward with that.”

Admittedly blindsided by the WPIAL’s about-face in terms of Butler’s involvement in the District 10 playoffs, Mylan could not hide his frustration over this decision.

“I have no idea why they’re doing this to us,” he said.

Christy said the team will await the result of the school’s appeal and go from there.

“We’ll deal with the process,” he said. “This is an obstacle, for sure, but that’s all it is. As coaches and players, we’ll go out and play football, compete in 2022 just like any other year.”