Fans across the state have had plenty to say about Pennsylvania’s move to six classifications for football ever since the decision was made earlier this school year. Instead of rehashing all of the debate that has occurred since then, I wanted to take a look at the new arrangement from a geographical perspective. State playoffs in football (and many other PIAA sports) are based around an East vs. West arrangement. In the past, this strict division hasn’t always been possible; for the past few seasons, the AAA winner of the Pittsburgh City League advanced into a subregional that played through the eastern bracket. In 2009, Clairton beat Bishop McCort for the Class A state championship, meaning no team in the final hailed from farther east than Johnstown.
There are, of course, other examples of the geographic breakdown of the state football playoffs not quite matching common sense. But these irregularities are based in the unequal populations of eastern and western Pennsylvania as a whole. This map of each football program in the state bears that out. Make the map full-screen and then check the boxes next to each classification to show or hide each school playing at that level over the next two seasons. This map groups teams by the classification they have chosen to play for if they decided to play up, so Aliquippa is grouped with 3A instead of 1A, the classification in which its enrollment initially placed it. All school enrollment information comes from this PIAA document, so please let me know if there are any errors that may need to be corrected.
- As expected, the East – and District 1 in particular – dominates the large school classifications. In the new 6A class, the East-West alignment is as clear-cut as it could possibly be. The class is comprised of a bunch of schools from the Philadelphia-to-Allentown corridor, a number of Pittsburgh-area schools, and then a light smattering from across the rest of the state. Adding in the 5A schools does virtually nothing to change this distinct geographic separation of schools.
- Classes 4A and 3A are more evenly spread across the state, with the exception of the sparsely inhabited north-central part of Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh area maintains a large number of schools in these classes, while the large-school dominance of suburban Philadelphia gives way to more schools in the south-central part of the state.
- Down at 2A, the tables have completely turned from the larger classes, as a large number of schools from the far western part of the state make up a significant chunk of the class. The stretch from Washington to New Castle has a number of 2A schools, as does – to a lesser extent – the Coal Region.
- The smallest class, 1A, has a fairly even spread geographically with the exception of southeastern Pennsylvania. In fact, only 7 teams in 1A are located east of Interstate 81.
What do you think? Share any observations or discussion points in the comments.