WPIAL eliminates football, basketball pairings meetings in cost-cutting move


Thursday, June 18, 2020 | 6:25 PM


Mt. Lebanon coach Bob Palko talks to his team before playing Gateway on Aug. 23, 2019 at Antimarino Stadium at Gateway High School.

The longstanding WPIAL playoff tradition that drew football and basketball coaches to a crowded hotel conference room is ending.

The WPIAL board voted Thursday to eliminate pairings meetings in a money-saving move meant to reduce the league’s 2020-21 budget. Concerned that covid-19 could cause the WPIAL financial pain, the board unanimously approved a $1.69 million budget that’s about $90,000 less than last year’s.

“We had to look at ways that we could cut costs and that’s one thing that stuck out,” WPIAL associate executive director Amy Scheuneman said. “Is this necessary, as far as a cost-and-benefit analysis? That’s one of the things the budget committee recommended.”

The WPIAL instead will reveal the brackets online.

Postseason ticket sales account for the vast majority of the WPIAL’s income, but there’s concern that covid-19 could impact the fall sports seasons. The WPIAL budget predicts more than $1.3 million in ticket sales next school year, including $325,000 for football playoffs and $171,000 for soccer.

Basketball is budgeted for $389,163 in ticket sales.

Those estimates are lower than usual, Scheuneman said.

“We took into consideration that there will be less people (in the stands),” she said, “which is why we had to cut costs as well, so we have a balanced budget in the end.”

The WPIAL budget committee considered four different options for establishing next year’s budget.

A status quo option included projected income as if the WPIAL held full postseason tournaments as usual. One dire option calculated no tournament income. One predicted income with only a few fans, and a fourth option considered 50% attendance.

The committee moved forward with the status quo budget.

“We’re optimistic,” Scheuneman said. “We all want sports. We all want tournaments. We’re going to do everything we can to have them.”

The WPIAL started trimming its budget even before the covid-19 pandemic. The league’s income rose in 2006-07 to $1.9 million, but that total has declined in the years since.

The 2019-20 budget was $1,782,600.

The WPIAL also reduced staff expenses by not immediately hiring a replacement office manager.

Member schools pay a very small percentage of the WPIAL budget. Next year’s dues total $43,200.

The WPIAL estimated it lost nearly $150,000 in would-be ticket sales when spring sports were canceled. Fortunately, of the three seasons, spring is the least lucrative.

Missing fall sports would be more financially painful, Scheuneman said, but the WPIAL could handle it.

A year without sports might be a different story.

“Financially, at this moment, yes, I think we’d make it through the fall,” she said. “An entire year is going to be very difficult. … We have money in the bank to carry us through if we have bad years, but if that happened, what does that look like for the future?”

The WPIAL board resumed in-person meetings Thursday.

Rather than use the WPIAL office in Green Tree, the meeting was moved to the Chartiers Valley administration building, which had more room for distancing.

‘Diversity Council’ considered

The WPIAL will consider creating a Diversity Advisory Council to give additional attention to concerns facing minority communities. The board unanimously supported the proposal during discussions Thursday and voted to explore the idea at a workshop session in July.

Council members would not be voting members of the board.

Football decisions on hold

The WPIAL board briefly discussed the upcoming football playoffs but took no action and referred the issue to the football steering committee for recommendations.

The PIAA finalized state tournament brackets Monday, a prerequisite for the WPIAL to determine the number of playoff qualifiers from each classification.

The WPIAL also hasn’t released championship sites for the football finals.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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