John Knebels
Special to The CS&T

When the 2010-11 academic year begins, the Philadelphia Catholic League will sport a significantly different look.

For purists who have implored a return to a single league champion, they will get their wish in every sport except football. For progressives who have thoroughly enjoyed the PCL’s exposure to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) these past two years, there is no need to worry. The Catholic League will remain a member of PIAA’s District 12 in the AAAA, AAA and AA classifications.

“Our number one goal has been to provide as many opportunities as possible for our student athletes to be successful,” said Joe Sette, who chairs the PCL’s Board of Directors while continuing his duties as Archbishop Wood’s athletic director and boys’ basketball coach. “I think we’ve done a good job with that.”

The PCL Board of Governors approved the measure, which was necessitated by the announcement that both Cardinal Dougherty and North Catholic will be closing in June of this year, while Kennedy-Kenrick will merge into Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford and be affiliated with the Pioneer Athletic Conference.

That will leave 17 schools as members of the Philadelphia Catholic League. Each sport is comprised of a different number of schools, but the common thread is that in each case, all teams will play each other once before eventually embarking on a postseason that for now remains in limbo.

The Catholic League’s ability to represent each of the three classifications of the PIAA District 12 will remain. Those teams will be determined by how well they perform in the Catholic League’s postseason. The PCL athletic directors and league coaches are still ironing out the final details to make sure all possibilities are covered.

In football, however, there will remain three different spanisions with three separate champions. There will be five teams in the largest classification (AAAA), four in the AAA, and five in the AA. The current plan is to award four playoff spots to both the AAAA and AAA and only two to the AA.

“When people ask me if there is any gloom and doom about any of this, I think they’re not aware of the facts,” said Sette. “When you think about how well the Catholic League has done already, it’s amazing.

“We’ve had eight state finalists and five state champions in less than two years. The Catholic League has done a tremendous job of maintaining its tradition while allowing our best athletes to compete against the best athletes in the state.

“Doing what is best for our students has always been the top priority.”

Gretchen Ehritz, athletic director at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, appreciates the return to a “more gelled unit.”

“There are big schools that struggle and smaller schools that dominate, so it’s not really about that,” said Ehritz. “I like this. It makes the league more unified. It will be nice not to have teams all over the place. And the (PIAA qualifiers) will be fine. It’s a good move.”

John Knebels can be reached at