Random thoughts: Hot and cold, boys and girls

The PIAA thinks it has found a way to keep boys off girls sports teams – or at least keep the impact from changing the nature of the postseason for girls.

The agency has been under fire for allowing boys – who at high school age tend to be bigger, stronger, faster than their female counterparts – to play on girls teams, most notably volleyball and field hockey. But the PIAA has been hamstrung since the 1970s over a court decision concerning equality issues.

The new rule – which is sure to be challenged in court as well – says that if a boy’s on the team, it’s a boys team. In other words, girls volleyball teams with male players will not advance to the postseason in the fall, but in the winter. And hockey teams with boys will be excluded from state play, since there is no male equivalent.

The problem for the PIAA will be getting around a ruling in another case I’ve discussed, that of Beattie vs. Line Mountain. Dismissing his own court’s past ruling – stare decisis, anyone? – federal judge Matthew Brann in Williamsport decided that the Northumberland County school must allow a girl to wrestle; to deny it would be gender discrimination.

(The relevant case, decided a decade earlier in the same court, also regarding a female athlete, was punctuated with the ruling that playing sports is not a right.)

The PIAA rule, of course, would only apply to interdistrict play, which it regulates – although the volleyball would be dicey as far as district advancement. And if a male plaintiff ends up in front of Judge Brann, the PIAA may find that its solution is anything but.

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Is it too cold to wrestle? The wrestling community in District 6 seems to think so.

The postponements for the district duals, which were to begin tonight, actually started being reported Monday, as schools in the region announced either delays or cancellations of classes today due to extreme cold.

Now, I’m sympathetic to school delays when it’s somewhere south of frigid – I don’t think it’s fair to make kids wait for a bus, or walk to school, under those conditions. And it’s true that, as I write this, it’s a balmy 18 degrees where I sit, compared to the harsher “I wish it would hit zero” elsewhere.

School policies generally prohibit extracurricular activities when there is no school, but that rule rarely applies when it comes to postseason events – and this is the district team tournament we’re talking about.

Weather forecasters are not always perfect – hold your laughter – and just as last year school officials were kicking themselves in the seat for calling off on what turned out to be a nice day, we may find ourselves in trouble if tomorrow and/or Thursday there’s truly prohibitive weather that makes in unsafe to hold the wrestling.

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I’m apparently not the only one who took notice that there’s a great disparity in the quality of girls basketball this season, at least on the offensive end of the court.

Philip Cmor, a friend at the Altoona Mirror, points to Ford City over Leechburg (56-0) and Altoona’s 81-10 bashing of Brashear as among the largest spreads further west.

Closer to home, we’ve had Mifflin County dispatching Central Mountain 83-17 (leave the calculator in the drawer – it’s a 66-point margin). And the Juniata girls did a number on Lancaster Country Day, 66-7; the Indians finally got a makeup date for their season-opening cancellation with Central Mountain, presumably because the Wildcats wanted no part of that game.

Far back in my career I recall a 78-2 that, at the time, was a rarity.

Separately, Cmor notes, there is but one Class AAAA boys team in District 6 with a .500 record as the week begins, and it happens to wear purple.

How do these tie together? Simple: it demonstrates again the benefit of being in a strong conference – am I the only one who’s noticed how much winning the Huskies are doing lately? – and the drawback of a weaker one.

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Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at jfishbein@lewistownsentinel.com.