A Principals' Organization, Principle-Based
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc. (PIAA) is a non-profit corporation and a voluntary membership organization. The members of PIAA consist of almost all of the public junior high/middle and senior high schools, some of the Charter and Private junior high/middle Schools, and many of the Charter and Private senior high Schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Generally stated, the function of PIAA is to develop and enforce rules regulating interscholastic athletic competition, which are authorized or adopted by the member schools.
PIAA was formed in Pittsburgh on December 29, 1913, by a group of high school Principals who wanted to eliminate abuses, establish uniform rules, and place interscholastic athletics in the overall context of secondary education. The purposes of PIAA, as set forth in ARTICLE II of its Constitution, are to:
- Organize, develop, and direct an interscholastic athletic program which will promote, protect, and conserve the health and physical welfare of all participants.
- Formulate and maintain policies that will safeguard the educational values of interscholastic athletics and cultivate the high ideals of good sportsmanship.
- Promote uniformity of standards in all interscholastic athletic competition.
PIAA believes that a system that best serves the student-athlete emphasizes the amateur, educational, and character-building aspects of high school sports and recognizes that athletics is not the driving force. Students are in school primarily to obtain an education.
The membership of PIAA consists of 1,431 schools, of which 583 are senior high schools and 594 are junior high/middle schools. Of that membership, 40 are Charter senior high Schools, 144 are Private senior high Schools, 17 are Charter junior high/middle schools, and 53 are Private junior high/middle Schools. More than 350,000 students participate in interscholastic athletics at all levels (varsity, junior varsity, or otherwise) of competition under PIAA jurisdiction, which placed Pennsylvania sixth among the states for 2017-2018. Similar associations exist in all 50 states.
PIAA is divided for administrative purposes into 12 geographic districts, each of which has a District Committee elected by the member schools within the PIAA district. Each District Committee elects a chairman, who becomes the district's representative on the Board of Directors, the statewide governing body of the organization.
Other members of the Board of Directors include representatives of the member junior high/middle schools, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), the Pennsylvania Principals Association, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association (PSADA), the Pennsylvania Coaches' Association (PCA), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), one female and one male PIAA-registered sports' official, the chairpersons of the Girls' Athletics and Private Schools' Steering Committees, and one female and one male representative from the Parents' Advisory Committee. With the sometime exception of the officials' and parents' representatives, members of the Board of Directors are experienced professional educators who have background and experience in dealing with high school athletics.
As with the Board of Directors, nearly all members of the District Committees are experienced professional educators with background and experience in dealing with high school athletics.
PIAA is governed by a Constitution adopted by its member schools and By-Laws adopted by its elected Board of Directors.
Schools become members of PIAA by applying for membership to the District Committee. The application must be signed by the school Principal and must be accompanied by a resolution of approval executed on behalf of the School Board or the Board having jurisdiction over the school stating that in all matters pertaining to interscholastic athletic activities, the school shall be governed by the Constitution, By-Laws, Policies and Procedures, and Rules and Regulations of PIAA.
The Principal of each member school is responsible to PIAA in all matters pertaining to the interscholastic athletic relations of the Principal's school. PIAA deals with individual Coaches, students, and their parents through its member schools.
The four major areas in which PIAA currently operates are:
- Establishing and enforcing rules governing the eligibility of high school athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics, including rules for academic performance and attendance, age, amateur status, and transfers.
- Adopting the Contest rules for each sport under its jurisdiction. With the exception of bowling, golf, rifle, and tennis, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), of which PIAA has been a member since 1925, publishes all other Contest rules adopted by PIAA. As NFHS does not have rules in these four sports, PIAA adopts those published by their respective national governing bodies.
- Registering and providing training opportunities for officials to officiate at Contests in which PIAA member schools participate. Approximately 12,000 sports officials are currently registered, on active status, and in good standing, with PIAA. PIAA requires its officials to be involved in continuing education and provides classes for them to attend on a local basis throughout the state.
- Organizing and operating Inter-District Championship Contests in the sports of baseball, basketball, competitive spirit, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling.
All of this is accomplished without any federal or state funds. PIAA's principle source of revenue is the sale of tickets to its Inter-District Championship Contests. Operating these Inter-District Championship Contests is also PIAA's largest expense. Junior high/middle schools pay annual dues of $250; senior high schools pay annual dues ranging from a low of $475 to a high of $625, based on school size. Those dues constitute approximately 10% of PIAA's gross revenue, and are paid by many of the schools from their athletic budgets, which come from ticket sales to their own Regular Season Contests. Gate receipts enable PIAA to operate without taxpayer financing.
In addition to these specific categories of operations, PIAA also provides numerous services to its members on a day-to-day basis through its headquarters near Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.
On a national comparative basis, PIAA has a small staff for such a large state. The organization operates with a full-time staff of 15 and approximately 200 volunteers. Most of those volunteers are professional educators in Pennsylvania schools. Without substantial volunteer assistance from people concerned about student-athletes and their experiences, PIAA could not operate as it does.