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YAIAA teams unlikely to join Eastern Conference

The YAIAA football coaches discussed the prospect of their teams joining the Eastern Football Conference on Wednesday night, but it is unlikely that any teams will join at this time. Joining the conference would potentially give teams that don't make the district playoffs the opportunity to play a non-district playoff game.

The Eastern Conference, which is based out of the Allentown area but includes schools from across the PIAA, has a separate playoff system for teams that don't qualify for districts. While some coaches in the YAIAA originally thought joining would be beneficial for teams that finish with a high record but don't make the district playoffs, a number of coaches voiced their opinion it isn't worth it.

The topic of joining the conference was discussed at the coaches' monthly meeting on Wednesday. While not every coach spoke on the topic, a few said they were not interested and no one specifically spoke out in favor of joining.

The YAIAA doesn't have to collectively join the conference, meaning teams are still allowed to join on their own. Applications are due on May 1, and dues are $100. It is currently unclear if any teams will decide to join.

According to Littlestown head coach Mike Lippy, coaches in the YAIAA began to discuss joining the conference a few months ago when the PIAA expanded from four classes to six. With the prospect of fewer teams in Class AAA making the district playoffs, coaches were interested in finding ways for previously deserving teams to play a postseason game.

However, a number of reasons make joining the conference impractical, according to Lippy. Those reasons include YAIAA teams having to expand their seasons into the winter sports schedule and potentially traveling to play opponents with no shared history.

"In the (Eastern Conference) area, it's tradition and the communities, principals and superintendents buy into it," Lippy said. "But what value is it to do this (for us), especially if your quarterback is also your star basketball player and he gets hurt in what is really a meaningless game?"

The Eastern Conference is divided into six divisions, and any schools in the YAIAA that decides to join will be placed in a division that is currently comprised of 13 schools from Berks County. The top two teams from each division that don't qualify for the district playoffs will play each other at the end of the regular season.

"It comes down to each individual school, and the message I'm getting here tonight (is) I'm not sure that any team is going to do it," Lippy said. "