LEECHBURG — Leechburg High School will not be joining the Heritage Conference after all, putting the Indiana County-based league back in the awkward position of having an uneven number of schools.
This spring the Leechburg Area School District decided to move its high school athletic programs from the WPIAL (District 7) to the Heritage Conference, a league within District 6. The school was granted a release by the WPIAL and membership in the Heritage, pending District 6 and PIAA approval.
The issue was tabled at the most recent PIAA meeting, though, and the Leechburg school board voted Wednesday to keep the school’s sports in the WPIAL, citing family concern over increased travel, among other issues, the Valley News Dispatch reported Thursday.
Leechburg has been a member of the WPIAL since 1919, though it has experienced little athletic success in recent years.
The Heritage Conference has had nine members — Blairsville, Homer-Center, Ligonier Valley, Marion Center, Northern Cambria, Penns Manor, Purchase Line, Saltsburg and United — since Laurel Valley closed in a merger with Ligonier Valley in the summer of 2010.
The previous 10-member setup, which the conference had since it was formed prior to the 2000-01 season, was perfect for a closed schedule in the nine-game Class A football regular season in District 6.
In 2010 all nine Heritage Conference football programs, eight of which are Class A, had to scramble to fill an open date on their schedules.
Since then, another open date has been added in Class A, with District 6 going to a 10-game regular season for Class A.
The Heritage Conference had twice approached Leechburg about joining the league before seemingly locking the Blue Devils up as a 10th team this spring. The conference had approached other schools, such as West Shamokin, about membership previously.