RUSSELL, Pa. – A discussion regarding the potential reinstatement of the Sheffield girls’ basketball program has been tabled until the end of the current basketball season.
During Monday’s Warren County School District Committee of the Whole meeting, school board members heard from administrators at both Sheffield and Warren High Schools about the possible reinstatement. After a nearly 45-minute discussion, board member John Wortman suggested that the board wait until the current season is over to continue on the topic.
“I would respectfully ask that this conversation be postponed until after the winter sports season concludes,” Wortman said. “We have tremendous student-athletes that are currently involved in a great season. Six wins in a row. And I think for us as a school board to interject ourselves into this at this point would be a disservice to our athletes.”
The board agreed that the subject would be revisited at the first committee meeting following the season’s end.
Sheffield and Warren have been in a co-op since the start of the 2021-22 season when Sheffield was unable to field a team due to low numbers.
Sheffield Principal Misty Weber and Athletic Director Corey Copley explained why the school is requesting to have the program reinstated.
“We have also spoken to the girls just to see if there’s interest to make sure that this is a discussion that should be had at this time,” Weber said. “And there are 13 confirmed students that have said that they would like to play and we have about four others that are just not confirmed at this time.”
“As far as numbers, obviously we have the 16 girls or 18 girls that expressed an interest,” Copley added. “Each year Sheffield’s on the edge of numbers and concern for participation. At the current time, we have a strong interest level. Our junior high program had for us a record number this past year. But again, I can’t predict five years from now, even next year for sure how many are going to come out but our numbers at the moment are fairly strong.”
WAHS AD Jeff White expressed concern about the timing of this request as the PIAA released new classification numbers at the end of October, and teams had to determine any voluntary changes by Dec. 1.
With the co-op in place, Warren moved from 4A to 5A based on the classification numbers. Based on information released by the PIAA, Warren’s enrollment is 284 female students, with 27 coming from Sheffield (only 50% of the co-oping school’s enrollment counts towards classification), which puts the total enrollment at 311. The cutoff for 4A is 309.
Warren voluntarily moved up to 6A as the only other District 10 5A program is Cathedral Prep.
“There is only one other 5A in District 10, it’s Cathedral Prep. We have a hard time competing with them,” White said. “We still can compete at the level that we are with the 6A teams. We defeated McDowell on Saturday night. We’ve already defeated Erie East previously. So those are teams there. But the biggest thing here is that we are stuck in that classification.”
When asked by board members why Sheffield being reinstated would have impacted Warren since the move to 6A was voluntary, White and WCSD Director of Administrative Support Services Gary Weber explained that if the request had come before reclassification, Warren would have stayed in 4A.
“We wouldn’t have had to make a decision about 5 or 6A if we wouldn’t have had the co-op,” White said. “We would have been 4A. We would have been in the same size schools as we were.”
“So the biggest ramification I think, Jeff, you would play some of the same region schools but you would not be able to go to playoffs in 4A,” Gary Weber said. “You would have to go to playoffs in 5A or 6A, which means you’d have to go through Cathedral (Prep) or move up to play the 6A schools.”
Board member Stephanie Snell said she could see the classification dialogue leaving people with negative connotations.
“I’m not trying to be negative here, but I feel like the message we’re being asked to say is Warren being a competitive team is more important than Sheffield kids playing is the message a lot of people are going to take away,” Snell said. “I’m sorry to say it but it is.”
Board member Savannah Cochran asked if any of Sheffield’s current junior high players had indicated whether they would continue to play if the co-op remained in place.
“We can say they might not play,” Gary Weber said. “We can’t really predict. I don’t know.”
Copley said he estimated the cost of reinstating the program, based on a 22-game schedule and including coaches’ salaries, would be approximately $19,000. He said the plan, initially, would be to rejoin District 9 but not join one of the D9 leagues.
“I would recommend that we maintain independence as far as the schedule goes. In other words, not join a league,” Copley said. “So that going down the road if it becomes a problem we’re not putting other schools in any kind of peril. We don’t want to mess with other schools, basically.”
The next full board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12, with the next committee meeting set for Feb. 26.