WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said Wednesday that he has warned Imani Christian that it could be at risk of losing its league affiliation in football for two years if it doesn’t field a team and can’t honor its schedule this season.
O’Malley told Imani athletic director Enos Scott, whose team lost players to Renaissance Christian Academy when they followed former Imani coach Harvey Smith there, that the school has a “responsibility to try to do the best you can with the kids enrolled in your school to convince them to play.”
After being denied membership in the WPIAL, Imani Christian had the decision overturned in an appeal to the PIAA. The Saints played in the WPIAL Class A Black Hills Conference, where they went 6-3. They were on a two-year probation period and thus ineligible for the playoffs.
O’Malley advised Imani to see how many players come out for the start of practice next Monday and that it should notify other Black Hills members by Aug. 19 if it didn’t have enough players to field a team and couldn’t honor its nine-game regular-season schedule.
“If they don’t honor it, they have a problem,” O’Malley said.
Under WPIAL rules, Imani Christian would not receive a WPIAL football schedule the following season. The school also would have to make its own schedule and demonstrate an ability to honor the games. If Imani can’t play football this season, O’Malley said, “what they’ve done, in essence, is penalize every other team.”
“When you try to get another game, everyone is booked,” O’Malley said. “Sometimes, (canceling the season is) the easiest thing to do but it’s not fair to everyone else. Anytime a school such as this (joins the WPIAL), you worry how dependable they’re going to be. I’m sure they felt if they were part of the program, it would entice people to enroll there.”
–By Kevin Gorman