Public vs. Private Football Debate: Write Your Local Congressperson

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Matt Herring | January 10, 2024

If you are passionate to change the landscape of Pennsylvania High School athletics (football for the purpose of this article) you could look up the email address of your local congressperson and emplore them to amend the Public School Code of 1949 (hand-write a letter and lick a stamp if you’re old school…write it in cursive for extra points).

In your message, specifically, you could request a new bill be proposed that supercedes House Bill #2104 of 1972 which authorized “private schools to participate with public schools in post-season athletic events.”  For some context, House Bill #2104 of 1972 furthormore enacted, “private schools shall be permitted, if qualified, to participate in post-season athletic contests with public schools.”  (see below for an image of the actual bill).


Yes, PA high school football fans…it’s true!  The PIAA cannot wake up one day and simply decide that public schools and private schools should be separated for post-season championship contests.  It will actually require a constitutional majority vote of the PA General Assembly to make that happen.  You’ll need 102 of Pennsylvania’s locally voted state reps to agree on the topic to make the change needed for an overhaul of the post-season structure.

While the PA Public School Code of 1949 established a standard for academics across the Commonwealth HB #2104 born 23 years later specifically addressed athletics as it pertains to public and private schools in post-season competition.  And now, 52 years later, many are clammering for a revisit of the statute governing athletics in PA.

What would a new bill propose and how would both public and private schools be represented?  That very question was addressed five years ago when state representative Scott Conklin (D-Centre County) brought forward legislation to establish separate playoffs for private and public schools (House Bill #919 of 2019).

The new bill read “For the purpose of playoffs and awarding championships, the Pennnsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association shall establish separate playoff systems and championships for athletics for public schools and private schools admitted under subsection (a).  (a) The association may establish separate playoffs and championships for athletics for boundary schools and nonboundary schools.”

Proposed House Bill #919 died before it hit the floor for a vote and has never been revisited since.

Since 2019, the landscape of the PA General Assembly has shifted greatly.  In 2019, Republicans held a 110-93 majority in the House.  Currently, Democrats control the House by a slim 102-101 margin.  Is this a factor in the possibility of a new House Bill being proposed by a Democratic member garnering the needed support to reach a vote and then passing?  Perhaps, as the last bill was brought to the floor by Democrat House member Conklin in a majority Republican House.  Whatever your politics, if you support a split of public and private for post-season play it shouldn’t matter which direction you lean…this should be a wholly bipartisan issue.

As it pertains to PA football and Commonwealth athletics in general, it may be time to make another attempt at separating private and public post-season competition.  If passed similar to the 2019 structure the PIAA would propose, ratify and administer the new format for post-season play.  It is certain, however, that any bill passed separating public and private schools in championship play could be met with numerous lawsuits which was likely the primary cause for the 2019 bill never making it to a vote.

Whatever side of the debate you support your voice is only heard by solicting your locally voted representatives.  As recent as last week, State Representative Rob Matzie (D-Beaver County) announced he plans to bring legislation to the floor to look at the “policy, practices, finances and structure with view toward comprehensive overhaul (of the PIAA).”  While this legislation is aimed more directly at an administrative and financial review of Pennsylvania’s high school athletic governing body it is not a reach to extend the scope of the analysis to also include the public/private playoff structure in addition to the current PIAA competition formula for team classification based on success and transfers over a two year cycle.

For a list of PA State Representatives to voice your opinion click the link below…





Follow PA Football News on Twitter @PaFootballNews


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