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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Clairton HS vs. Bishop Guilfoyle HS: A Contrast in Poverty

Referees break up a fight in the Class A Title Game in 2014
The Pennsylvania class A high school football championship this year was a matchup of two schools with proud football traditions: Clairton High School near Pittsburgh and Bishop Guilfoyle High School in Altoona, PA.  The two teams met in the title game in 2014 and again this year.  Guilfoyle won the game 17-0 giving them their 47th straight win and third straight state title.

On a Winning Streak: Clairton High School Football Team from Eileen Blass on Vimeo

Clairton won four straight Class A titles from 2009 to 2012 winning 60 games in a row (a state record).   This however is where the similarities end for the two teams.  The video above shows how the city of Clairton changed since 1970 with the population declining from 15,051 to 6,681, an 56% decrease according to the census bureau (the person in the video who said it had decreased from 40,000 to 8,000 may have been including surrounding communities).  The census bureau currently estimates that the city has a median income of $30,207 and 28.6% of their citizens live in poverty.  

Altoona, PA (where Bishop Guilfoyle is located) over the same period, had a population decline from 63,115 in the 1970 census to an estimated 45,344, a 28% decrease.  According to the census bureau, it currently has a median income of $36,215 and 22.1% of it's citizens live below the poverty level.  

Bishop Guilfoyle is a catholic high school with a tuition $6500 and has the advantage of being able to recruit players and giving them financial assistance.  They can even recruit international students.  Their coach played on Penn State's 1995 Rose Bowl Championship team under coach Joe PaternoClairton, as a public high school can only use players who live in their school district (though some may move there just to play for them).  

The census bureau's annual Small Area Income and Poverty Estimate (SAIPE) for the school district has Clairton with a 45.6% poverty rate for it's student population (age 5-17) which is the second highest in the state (children from wealthier families in this community may go to private or catholic schools).  The Altoona School district (which does not include Guilfoyle) by contrast has an estimated poverty rate of 25.2%.  There is a higher degree of uncertainty in the estimates for smaller school districts.

The PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) has six classifications for their schools for school size.  They have separate championships for each class.  Of the 12 teams that made it to the championship game five of them were Catholic and three of those won.  The class 6A game was a matchup of two Catholic Schools with Pittsburgh Central Catholic (Dan Marino's alma mater) playing St. Joseph's prep in Philadelphia.  St. Joe's won 49-7.

Sports can be a source of pride for a community, especially for one that has fallen on hard times.  Just as in prehistoric times the best hunter in a tribe was a leader for the community.  Sports fills the void that was created now that no one needs to hunt to survive.  Noam Chomsky argues that sports can be a distraction from people's everyday problems but our sports leaders, such a Colin Kapernick can use their prestigious position to advocate for those less fortunate than them.

  **Related Posts**

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A Higher % of the McCort Class of '16 in the NHS than in the 1980's

Super Bowl XLV: A Battle of Champions Who Couldn't Compete Now Without a Salary Cap