HISTORY OF THE WPIAL
The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) was founded in 1906 by a small group of educators who recognized the need to provide a set of eligibility rules and regulations in order to ensure a level playing field for interscholastic athletic competition among the schools in Western Pennsylvania. The first impetus for such a League arose as early as 1903 when indeed it was an extraordinary institution that was solely represented by pupils of that school. The lack of scholastic requirements permitted the schools of that day to hire the best players in the vicinity, outfit them in high school uniforms and stack them against each other in grim battles. Representatives of Allegheny Prep, Pittsburgh, Central High School and Shady Side Academy initiated the effort in the early stages. But it was not until E. W. Rynearson of Pittsburgh Fifth Avenue became involved in 1906 that the first set of eligibility rules were drawn with the help of Headmaster Jones of Allegheny Prep and W. R. Crabbe of Shady Side Academy.
The work of the League was not finished at that point because the job of enforcement of these new rules became most difficult for the principals of the member schools. The largest daily newspapers of Pittsburgh blasted the new order as an effort to kill interscholastic athletics, and leading citizens found fault with the plan when important members of their team were banned from participation in big games.
Gradually the scope of the League was expanded to many towns near Pittsburgh. Growth was controlled so that the League could accommodate small numbers on a yearly basis. Only the old Allegheny Valley League was absorbed as an organization. All schools who applied for membership were admitted as volunteer members who would abide by the rules of the association. The success of the efforts of the founders of the WPIAL were transferred to the formation of a state association known as Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) in 1914. This group of men, which included Edward Sergeant of New Castle and J. H. Saul of Pittsburgh formulated a plan based on the benefits that resulted to the schools from the formation of the WPIAL.
The original WPIAL Constitution drawn in 1906 was revised in 1919, 1924, 1946, 1949, 1958 and 1966 as the membership grew and the menu of activities expanded per the wishes of the membership. Eventually the WPIAL document was retired and the League adopted the PIAA Constitution in 1973. In 1982 the WPIAL, which had been designated as District VII in 1914 when the PIAA first organized, officially became WPIAL/District VII.
The wisdom of the early founders has been the bedrock for the growth and success of the largest League in the high school athletic scene in the country. The leadership demonstrated by the Decision Committee, as the first governing body of the League was known, provided the catalyst for the growth of the group of three high schools to one hundred fifty-six as late as the 1981/82 school year. Currently there are one hundred forty high schools and one hundred forty-eight junior/middle/intermediate school members in the WPIAL.
The original Decision Committee of three high school principals was expanded over the years as the League grew in size and scope. In 1964 there were ten people who served the WPIAL in this capacity. They were: eight high school principals, a representative of the school boards of the WPIAL member schools and a game officials representative. In 1938 the growth of junior high school activities necessitated the creation of a junior WPIAL organization. A member of that group was added to the Decision Committee in 1967. The separate junior high organization was absorbed into the WPIAL in 1986. In 1971 recognition by the League of the participation in interscholastic athletic activities by girls was the impetus that created a WPIAL girls athletics administrative unit under the direction of the Decision Committee. In 1974 a representative of that unit was added to the WPIAL Board of Control (as the new title of the governing body was named). The current Board of Control membership of sixteen was established in 1983 when a representative of the superintendents of the WPIAL member schools was added. The rapid growth of the girls program, the addition of new boys activities, and the need to establish a League office to assist the Board of Control in the management and administration of the business of the League on a daily basis resulted in the employment of a full-time Executive Director in 1976.
The untiring efforts of all the men and women who have voluntarily served the WPIAL as members of the Decision Committee/Board of Control contributed greatly to the recognition and success of an idea that changed the entire perspective of high school sports. The program of the 90’s is evidence of their vision.