By enrollment, Aliquippa football should be playing in Class-1A in the 2020 season.
Even though their boys enrollment is just 117, the Quips played up in Class-3A through the last two-year cycle that ended in 2019. Now, thanks to a PIAA rule change, Aliquippa has been forced to move to Class-4A.
To some in Aliquippa, it feels like a punishment for winning.
The Aliquippa school district and athletic department dropped an appeal they were set to have with PIAA officials regarding the ruling on Wednesday. That decision was made in large part because Aliquippa’s first appeal was shut down early in the month by the PIAA and figured nothing would change this time around.
The decision came as a significant surprise to head football coach Mike Warfield.
“The decision not to go forward with the appeal was not made by me,” Warfield said. “I didn’t even know about the decision. I wasn’t consulted at all. … I didn’t know until after the fact.”
Warfield wanted to put up a fight for his kids.
“It’s because we are winning,” Warfield said. “All our kids are doing is working hard every day, getting better. They aren’t buying their success at Dick’s (Sporting Goods). They’re earning it. What (the PIAA) is doing is taking away from what our kids have accomplished.”
The Quips have won 17 WPIAL titles and three PIAA titles in their rich history, including state and regional championships in 2018. Last season, they lost in the WPIAL championship game and failed to make the state playoffs.
The new PIAA rule factors in victories in a formula to determine which schools need to move, but it also depends on the number of transfers that the program gets within the two-year cycle. So, if Aliquippa receives three or more transfers on their squad within the next cycle, they must stay in Class 4-A for an additional two seasons.
Warfield is adamant about the fact that the team’s success has nothing to do with Aliquippa recruiting or getting transfers, because that’s not the case.
“We are not recruiting,” Warfield said. “Kids come and go in Aliquippa. How can we turn a kid down who wants to play football or any other sport? We have kids that are moving back and forth, moving here and there, just to try and survive.
“We have 20-35 kids [on our team], and you don’t know how many actually play,” Warfield said. “The three kids that they accounted for transferring didn’t even play.”
But now that the decision has been made for Aliquippa to play in Class-4A for at least the next two years, Warfield wants to make one thing crystal clear: Aliquippa football isn’t going anywhere.
“We aren’t going to shy away,” he said. “We’re going to be there Friday at 7:30, wherever they want us to play. We don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us. We don’t want sympathy. They made the decision, and we have to live by the decision.”
Warfield doesn’t want the WPIAL and PIAA to have the power to take the focus off of what has always been going on at Aliquippa.
“Whatever class they put us in, we’re going to play. But we’re successful because we work hard, not because of transfers.”
Schools such as Southern Columbia (who went undefeated and won a state title last season) and Wilmington, went through with their appeals and were both allowed to stay in Class 2-A. Schools that went through with their appeals and got denied were Farrell and Archbishop Wood.