WEST SUNBURY, Pa. (D9Sports) – The KSAC announced Thursday, a day before the start of Week 6 (seventh overall) of the high school football season that the Clarion football team is a member of the KSAC Large School Division as opposed to the KSAC Small School Division where it has resided since the split into Large School and Small School.
“It has come to the attention of the Executive Board of the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference (KSAC) that some media sources have been identifying Clarion Area High School as a member of the KSAC Small School Division in football,” an Oct. 6 letter sent to the media from the KSAC and signed by league president Todd Amsler said. “Due to the recent PIAA re-classification of football, Clarion Area is now AA as opposed to single A. Therefore, since the beginning of the football season and for the duration of the athletic cycle, Clarion Area is a member of the KSAC Large School Football Division.”
The letter went on to say, “this is keeping in line with past practice and procedure of the KSAC League that all schools AA and larger are considered KSAC large school. Clarion Area has also been consistently reported as large school in the District IX (9) football playoff standings since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. We, the KSAC officers, are aware of an agreement many years ago between two schools and the league. Having said that, we do not feel the facts surrounding the arrangement apply in this situation. As stated earlier, with the PIAA reclassification becoming effective this 2016-17 season, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the student-athletes and the school membership of the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference.”
When contacted, Clarion Area superintendent Mike Stahlman said the change to the KSAC Large School Division was news to him.
“I thought we were still part of the small school division,” Stahlman said. “If they (the KSAC) haven’t changed their policy regarding six classifications, they need to reconsider that.”
Stahlman later e-mailed D9Sports.com back saying that after talking to athletic director Nancy Mills and principal John Kimmel, both said they were aware that the Bobcats were in the Large School Division. Stahlman said he asked both if they would ask the KSAC to revisit the decision and discuss updating the divisions to reflect the new six classification system.
Earlier in the season, Clarion football coach Larry Wiser indicated he believed his team was a member of the Small School Division. On Tuesday, Wiser said a conference championship isn’t the ultimate goal of the Bobcats, a District 9 title is.
Stahlman’s reference to the six classification system stems from the fact the PIAA, starting this year, moved from four classifications in football to six classifications in football. The KSAC by-laws were written in an era of four classifications. When the classifications went from four to six, two KSAC schools jumped in classification, Clarion from 1A to 2A and Karns City from 2A to 3A.
According to numbers provided by the PIAA, Clarion has 103 male students in grades 9 through 12, which would classify the Bobcats as 1A – in fact, six 1A schools in District 9 are larger than Clarion. But Clarion has a cooperative agreement with North Clarion, which has a male-student population of 84. Under PIAA guidelines, Clarion must count half the North Clarion male population, which brings Clarion’s football number to 145, which bumps the Bobcats to 2A by four students.
In the past, the KSAC has had a 2A school that was in a co-op agreement, A-C Valley, listed in the Small School Division. In 2010 and 2011, A-C Valley was co-opting with Cranberry and was a 2A school but played in the Small School Division. Information obtained by D9Sports.com indicates that was a special provision made for A-C Valley, which said it would dissolve is co-op at the time if it was made to play in the Large School Division, which was thought to be a death sentence for the football program. Because the KSAC didn’t want to see A-C Valley’s program die at the time, it agreed to allow the Falcons to play in the Small School Division.