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Winter weather wreaks havoc on high school sports schedules, but there’s more …

Pennsylvania sees its fair share of snow every year, some more than others.

Almost every year work schedules, school days and athletic events are affected in varying degrees. In a winter, that has become famous for the polar vortex and Winter Storm Hercules, Mid-Penn high school athletics has experienced seven days of postponements and cancellations. This past week saw two days of games get postponed, a fitting end to a chaotic season.

“Unfortunately appropriate,” District 3 director of corporate sponsorships Rod Frisco said.

Representatives from the PIAA and District 3, as well as several Sentinel-area boys basketball coaches, spoke about some of the challenges present every year regarding boys basketball season.

The winter season

Some winters hit harder than others.

“This winter’s cake compared to like 92, 93,” Boiling Springs boys basketball coach Pat Dieter said. “It makes this winter look like a walk in the park.”

“But it’s very cyclical,” PIAA chief operating officer Mark Byers said. “We’ve gone the past couple of years with not having significant weather, and it just seems like it’s our turn this year.”

But it is safe to say that the 2013-14 basketball season has been a hectic year with rescheduling games.

Basketball season has to contend with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and is pushed into an 11-week opening. Ideally the PIAA looks for each sport, with the exception of football, to average two regular season games per week during their season. But with the holidays alone, basketball programs are forced to schedule three games a week to hit their target of 18 to 22 games by season’s end. Winter weather and flu season has an impact as well.

“This year, for example, our league scheduled us for Monday, Wednesday, Friday the last full week before Christmas,” Shippensburg boys basketball coach Ray Staver said. “Are you really concerned about families if your league schedules three games the week before Christmas?”

He added that next season the league fixed it and scheduled two games the week before Christmas.

Byers contended that spring sports may have the most difficulty. With just a 20-game, 10-week season, baseball and softball routinely battle rain delays.

“Weather can affect every sport,” Byers said.

Rescheduling games

The obvious obstacle any time a game must be rescheduled is finding a matching date for both teams when the home team’s gym is available.

“Next open date,” Carlisle boys basketball coach Andre Anderson said. “That’s always our philosophy… As long as it’s not in an unrealistic situation.”

This helps prevent backloading the season and potentially running into issues like what happened this year, with some teams rescheduling games for a second time or fighting to fit in a late season postponement before the power ratings deadline with an already clogged schedule.

Frisco said that District 3 doesn’t have a policy of any kind for schools to reschedule games, although it highly recommends the “next open date” mentality that Anderson described. However, some teams don’t always follow suit.

“They’ve taken games that have been postponed early in the sport’s season, and moved them to a date late in the sport’s season,” Frisco said. “You’re doing a disservice to the whole process, to be quite honest.”

“If people would reschedule the games immediately and not look for advantages, it wouldn’t get as backed up,” Dieter said.

Frisco believes that offseason meetings may lead to some sort of policy on rescheduling games. He warned that the district doesn’t want to become too dictatorial about the matter, however, saying that teams often times have legitimate reasons for having to push back rescheduled games.

But he did cite District 11’s policy as an example of what District 3 might consider. District 11 deducts points from a team’s power rating equal to the number of games they failed to get in before the deadline.

“If you left five percent of your schedule unplayed, they will deduct five percent of your power rankings,” Frisco said. “Will we look at that? I think we’ll look at that, but I have no idea where we’ll go with that or any other suggestion.”

The power ratings

District 3 uses the same formula for their power ratings in every sport. Dieter said it’s intent is to treat every sport equally.

“There’s an equality there,” Dieter said. “Is there totally? Probably not.”

Each of Pennsylvania’s 12 districts are “autonomous” in determining their qualifiers, Byers said, as they are with setting guidelines for rescheduling games and their qualifying deadlines.

District 3’s formula puts emphasis on strength of schedule. That can pose a problem when a 3-AAAA team loses to a school in a lower class.

“Trinity is a killer game for people in their league because, first of all, they’re AA,” Dieter said. “Normally they have a great record. So you play them and if you lose to them, they’re AA — if you’re AAA or AAAA — it hurts you but it doesn’t hurt you as bad because they have a great record.”

Staver said an issue he has with the system is the inequality in the number of teams that make the postseason from each class. Of the 42 3-AAAA schools, 20 make the postseason, or 47.6 percent. This year, they all have a winning record. But in 3-AA, the class with the fewest boys basketball teams, 10 of 16 teams make the playoffs, or 62.5 percent. Two qualifying teams are below .500.

“We have 13 wins and we’re right now four spots away from getting into playoffs,” Staver said. “So how can District 3 justify that?”

The deadline

“I would’ve loved to sit in that meeting when they made that decision,” Dieter said.

Dieter was speaking about District 3’s decision to move the power ratings deadline back from Feb. 6 to one day later.

On Monday, Frisco sent out an email to every team stating that the district was not going to extend the midnight deadline. The district likes to have four to five days to prepare for the tournament, which begins Feb. 14, Frisco said.

“That seems like a lot of lead time, but experience has shown that the more lead time you give people, the better off you’re going to be once the tournament begins,” Frisco said.

With snow cancelling games Monday and Wednesday throughout the midstate, the executive committee switched gears and moved the deadline back 24 hours. Sunday’s executive committee meeting wasn’t going to be affected, which was part of the concern with keeping the deadline in place.

“And let’s be honest, with all the games being wiped out (this week) it simply makes sense now to extend that deadline one day,” Frisco said Wednesday.

East Pennsboro’s makeup game with Dover was set for Feb. 7 the day the decision was made, allowing the Panthers one last shot to get into the 3-AAA playoffs after entering the week two spots out of the top 18. If the deadline hadn’t been moved, they could’ve missed out on the postseason.

Instead, the Panthers grabbed the final spot.

Staver’s team was among those impacted the hardest this season. The Greyhounds lost back-to-back games two weeks ago, knocking them down five spots in the 3-AAAA ratings and out of the playoff picture with one game to go. But their matchup with Lower Dauphin on Feb. 5 was postponed to the 10th because of the weather.

Shippensburg was a longshot to get back into the playoff picture, but not getting in their final game effectively doomed their season.

It was an unfortunate, but hardly appropriate, end to the season.

Email Jake Adams at jadams@cumberlink.com or follow him on Twitter @jakeadams520

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