Philadelphia Public League

Philadelphia Public League

The Philadelphia Public League (PPL) traces its origin back to 1901, but the league's history more strictly begins a decade later. Philadelphia sees the league's origins in the 1901 formation of the Philadelphia Interscholastic League, a conference encompassing all the city's high schools, public and private. Prior to this date, in several sports, notably football and basketball, the public and private schools in the area had been competing among themselves for several years. Basketball and track and field were the first recognized sports in 1901, but football although not formally on the schedule engaged all the same teams and newspapers usually recognized the school with the best record as the (lower case) interscholastic champion. In 1902, baseball and crew were added to the schedule.

The public school members in the Philadelphia Interscholastic League included Central High, Central Manual, and Northeast, in the first few years, and beginning in 1909 Southern. There were at least twelve different private schools that were members—secular, Quaker, and Catholic—and the most notable members were Brown Preparatory, Roman Catholic, Friends Central Select, and LaSalle. In 1911, the public school members withdrew from the league to form the Philadelphia High School League (later called the Philadelphia Public League).

Initially, the Public League members were the four public schools that withdrew from the Interscholastic League--Central, Central Manual, Northeast, and Southern--joined by West Philadelphia High. Germantown Academy, a private school, joined a few years later. Overbrook, Frankfort, Simon Gratz, Olney, and Roxborough would join the league in the next couple of decades.

Football, basketball, rifle, outdoor track, crew, and baseball were offered the first school year of competition, 1911-12. Crew was particularly big in Philadelphia, as the University of Pennsylvania sponsored interscholastic meets for the sport and encouraged its adoption by the city high schools. Soccer and cross country were added just before World War I, and in the 1920s saw the introduction of swimming, gymnastics, golf, and tennis. The league experimented with indoor track (1915-21), ice hockey (1922), and bowling (1930-32), but apparently these sports drew insufficient interest for the league to sustain them on the athletic calendar. Crew was dropped by the league in 1919, which was a grevious blow to Central High, which for decades had one of the great rowing programs in the country.

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