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Playoff denial not right

The WPIAL Board of Directors’ voice was not heard two years ago.

That board is making sure it’s being heard now — at the expense of any playoff opportunity for the 2022 Butler varsity football team.

WPIAL Executive Director Amy Scheuneman said in an email Thursday that the board voted to not allow Butler to participate in the District 10 playoffs two years ago. That 2020 season was the Golden Tornado’s first as an associate member in football in D-10. She said the decision to allow Butler to proceed in postseason play “was made without Board action.”

I didn’t think that was possible, but apparently, it is.

Butler finished 2-4 in that 2020 season and did not qualify for the playoffs. When the Tornado qualified this past season, no one stopped them from taking on McDowell for the D-10 6A championship. Butler was competitive in that game before dropping a 40-21 decision.

Now the WPIAL Board is ruling Butler cannot make a return trip to the playoffs through another district.

“The Board is simply seeking adherence to its original decision,” Scheuneman said.

It’s not hard to see where the WPIAL is coming from on this.

Two other WPIAL members (in other sports) — Albert Gallatin and Uniontown — play an independent football schedule. Uniontown was 2-4 last season. Albert Gallatin was 6-2, but was not a member of another league or district. The Colonials played three opponents from West Virginia and three from Maryland as part of its schedule.

Butler was actually accepted into District 10 and figured it only natural that it be eligible to compete in that district’s playoffs.

Scheuneman stated in her email: “We understand the desire for schools to not accept a schedule in an effort to align themselves with teams at a similar level of competition to help build up a program.” Butler has certainly done that with its football program.

Scheuneman also stated: “We are a league that has a rich history and values the playoff system we have in place to not only win a WPIAL championship, but also to quaify for trhe PIAA Tournament.”

The WPIAL does not favor the idea of member schools dropping out and finding another means to get into PIAA tourney play. Worrying that Butler may be establishing a threatening trend in that regard is an understandable concern.

But the bottom line here is that we’re dealing with kids. This entire issue comes down to how Butler’s football schedule is perceived.

The WPIAL refers to it as an independent schedule, like Albert Gallatin’s and Uniontown’s. Butler refers to it as a District 10 member schedule, which in its eyes makes the Tornado eligible for the D-10 playoffs.

Tricky situation.

My feeling is that Butler should be eligible for the D-10 playoffs, should it qualify. The WPIAL should have been more aggressive in stating its case two years ago.

At some point,. Butler football will return to the WPIAL.

As long as District 10 will have it, let Butler’s football players compete for an extended season like every other team in a league does.

John Enrietto is sports editor of the Butler Eagle