By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—With the announced closings on Friday of Monsignor Bonner, Archbishop Prendergast, Conwell-Egan, West Catholic and St. Hubert’s, a minor shock wave went through the Philadelphia Catholic League, one of the nation’s oldest high school sports leagues conceived in 1920 by an Augustinian monk known as Monsignor Bonner.
It’s ironic the new face of the league will move forward without the namesake school of the league’s founding father.
The Philadelphia Catholic League Board of Directors will meet next Thursday at Archbishop Carroll to determine what the composition of the Catholic League in 2012 will look like, with the biggest changes likely to come in football.
This past season, the Catholic League consisted of five Class AAAA schools (La Salle, Roman Catholic, St. Joseph’s Prep, Father Judge and Archbishop Ryan), four Class AAA (Archbishop Wood, Cardinal O’Hara, Archbishop Carroll and Bonner) and four Class AA (Neumann-Goretti, Bishop McDevitt, West Catholic and Lansdale Catholic).
With Bonner and West closing, there is a chance the Class AAA, which next year will include Wood, O’Hara and Lansdale Catholic, and Class AA, which will consist of Neumann-Goretti, Carroll and McDevitt, may merge.
“There’s going to absolutely be some juggling; I think there is a safe assumption that there won’t be three divisions, that’s clear,” said Joe Sette, Wood’s athletic director and Chairman of the Catholic League. “That’s what our focus will be next Thursday. We have always traditionally met on the second Thursday of every month, and the ADs will meet to formulate schedules, because we didn’t know who to include before Friday’s announcement. We’ll take a look at our setup and where we go from here. The area that will take most of our attention will be football.
“The scenario of the Class AA and Class AAA schools merging into one division is certainly a scenario that could happen. We don’t want the Class AA schools to be competing against the Class AAAA schools. So yes, one of the scenarios is a Class AAA and Class AA division. That will certainly be discussed next Thursday. We also plan on having a decision next Thursday. A lot of schools are looking to complete their next fall’s schedule. Because presently, with everything that’s happened, we have no fall 2012 schedules for any of our sports. All of our nine fall sports will have a schedule that will be presented to the board for approval.”
Sette, as many teachers and coaches at the schools that are closing, is a Catholic League fixture. Sette, as well as many others throughout the Archdiocese, knew a decision was coming down on Friday that could spell the end of a handful of long-standing Catholic League schools.
“Still, it’s difficult,” Sette admitted. “It’s absolutely been a tough day. I’ve been in the system for 38 years and I’m a graduate at St. Joe’s Prep, and I’ll be the first to attest there are a lot of great people and coaches, teachers and friends in these schools that are closing. I feel for them. We need to be sensitive to their situation. This will be a tough couple of months as we near the finish line of this school year.
“But we also need to move forward. I know there was a lot of talk of how the closures will help academically. I also think it will help athletically. My hope is we’ll be able to retain a lot of these kids from the closing schools and give them a chance to compete in athletics. In the meantime, we’re trying to be as positive as we can in a tough time for a lot of people.”