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Butler playoff saga ongoing

Butler’s Braylon Littlejohn scores a touchdown against McDowell Oct. 21 at Art Bernardi Stadium. Butler lost 48-24. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
2 court hearings slated Thursday on PIAA appeal

BUTLER TWP — Another obstacle has been thrown in the Butler Area High School football team’s path to the District 10 championship game.

The PIAA has appealed last week’s Butler County Court of Common Pleas’ decision to grant Butler a permanent injunction, which negated the PIAA and District 7’s earlier ruling that Golden Tornado was ineligible to compete in post-season play through another district.

That appeal has resulted in a pair of hearings Thursday, involving attorneys from both parties. The first is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, the second slated for 2 p.m. in the Court of Common Pleas in Butler.

Both hearings are public proceedings and will be done remotely.

“Basically, attorneys from both sides will present oral arguments on the case again,” said Tom Breth, the attorney representing the Butler Area School District. “The PIAA is seeking a stay on the injunction order and on Tuesday, requested a hearing in Commonwealth Court.

“We requested that appeal take place in Common Pleas Court, which resulted in two hearings taking place.”

Breth will handle Butler’s argument in front of the Commonwealth Court while attorney Tom King will do so in Common Pleas Court.

“This inappropriate action by the PIAA just creates more confusion and uncertainty just 30 hours before this game is scheduled to be played,” Breth said. “It’s unfortunate we even have to deal with this situation.”

Breth added it is possible that one hearing Thursday rules for the PIAA and the other for Butler.

“If the Commonwealth Court ruling goes against us, then it’s over, they won’t even have the Common Pleas hearing,” King said. “If the Commonwealth ruling favors us, the other hearing could still take place ... Having the Common Pleas hearing second makes no sense.

“The scheduling of these hearings is messed up because they (PIAA) came into this late with their attorneys in a last-ditch effort to change this ruling.”

Butler is scheduled to play McDowell at 7 p.m. Friday at Veterans Stadium in Erie with the District 10 Class 6A championship on the line. Should Butler be ruled ineligible for that game through this appeal, Erie High School would replace the Golden Tornado in that game.

“Crazy is a good way to describe this,” Butler football coach Eric Christy said. “McDowell has to game plan and prepare for two teams. Erie is probably practicing and preparing for a game it may not play. Now we may be in the same boat.

“We didn’t tell our kids about this (Tuesday), but now that things are out on social media, we’ll address with it them. We have to keep our focus and get ready to play a football game. We’re grateful that our school district continues to have our back and fight for us on this.”

Butler athletic director Bill Mylan described the Golden Tornado football players as “riding a rollercoaster right now.”

“It’s a shame our kids are being put through this,” he said. “I don’t see anything different that’s going to change this ruling, but I guess you never know.”

Breth plans to use the same argument during the appeal that he made during the original case a week ago.

“The PIAA did not follow its own constitution and bylaws in ruling our football team ineligible for the playoffs,” Breth said. “We will reinforce that stance. We’re confident with where we stand, but anytime you go before the court in an effort to convince them, it’s always nerve-wracking.”

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