CRANBERRY TWP — The North Catholic girls basketball program has found its rightful division for the 2020-21 season.
It just took a while.
The Trojanettes learned Monday that their appeal of a PIAA decision to bump them up to Class 5A because of the state's new competitive-balance rule was successful.
After voluntarily playing the past two seasons in Class 4A — despite being a Class 2A program in terms of enrollment — North Catholic girls basketball will compete in Class 3A next year.
“Our enrollment figures went up and we're reclassified as a 3A program,” Trojanettes coach Molly Rottmann said.
North Catholic nearly had to move up to Class 5A.
The PIAA competitive-balance rule states that if a football or basketball program accumulates six or more postseason success “points” over two years — and brings in one or more transfers from sophomore year or beyond during that period — that program must move up one class for the next two years.
A program receives four points for reaching the state finals, three for the semifinals, two for the quarterfinals and one for participating in the first round. The team gets the points of the round in which it is knocked out.
While North Catholic had the necessary points to be moved up, its appeal concerned the ruling the program accepted a sophomore transfer.
“There was a clerical error last year regarding one of our players and that's been rectified,” Rottmann said. “One of our freshmen last year was mistakenly in our enrollment records as a sophomore. That would make her appear to be a transfer.
“Thankfully, we were able to use the appeal process to solve this issue.”
Rottmann said she is in favor of competitive balance in high school athletics, adding that's one of the reasons her team voluntarily played at Class 4A the past two years.
“We felt we could compete at that level and it would be fair.” the coach said. “Now we're losing nine seniors and we certainly didn't want to go up to 5A.
“We decided to play at our regular class (3A) the next two years because we'll have a lot of freshmen, a lot of unknown talent on the floor.”
Two other WPIAL basketball programs — Lincoln Park's boys and Chartiers Valley girls — have appealed PIAA competitive-balance rulings that would force them to move up to 4A and 6A, respectively.
Another 26 PIAA basketball teams may have been reclassified under this rule had this year's state tournament been able to finish.
“That's a point Lincoln Park is making and I understand that point,” Rottmann said. “These were unusual circumstances this year.”
North Catholic athletic director Brian Miller said “rules are rules” and that the competitive-balance rule is fair.
“I've always been a rule follower,” he said. “In this case, a clerical error was caught. I don't think this is a bad rule.”
Neither does Rottmann, though she sees where it could affect future transfers trying to play sports.
“If a program is in a situation where accepting a transfer onto its roster means being bumped up in class — and that transfer is not an impact-type player — that player might get cut from that roster,” the coach said.
“You might have situations where a new student just wants to be part of a team and may be denied that opportunity. That's a drawback, but the rule does further level the playing field and that's a good thing.”