The look has remained largely the same since its inception in 1968.

The Big 30 All-Star Football Team, annually, has consisted of 30 players, with 15 typically being selected for both the offensive and defensive sides. It’s drawn, historically, from nearly 40 pre- and post-merger, defunct and enduring, programs, with the likes of Bradford, Olean and Smethport garnering the most selections and Delevan-Machias and Youngsville the fewest (one each).

It’s also, of course, been comprised of players from both the New York and Pennsylvania side of the Big 30 border.

Until now. At least in its traditional sense.

THE QUESTION first arose in September, when the NY high school sports governing body announced that it was pushing football season to the spring as Pennsy continued to push forward: What do we do with the gridiron all-star team?

At both an in-person and virtual meeting, the Big 30 Football Committee, a handful of whom have been in place for decades, bandied about the options: Do we wait until New York plays its season and pick the team in the spring? Do we select a PA-only team now and NY version later on?

Each option came with concerns. If we wait to pick a traditional team in the spring, how might that affect the PA players, with so much time having elapsed between their season and the selection meeting? What if New York’s campaign never actually materializes? Shouldn’t we find a way to honor the Pennsy all-stars now?

Then, too, there was the issue that almost no committee members were able to see players in person this fall (which might also be true in the spring), a major component when sitting down to choose the team, especially the linemen, for whom discernable statistics aren’t as prevalent.

After much back and forth, a decision was made … albeit a tentative one: We’d go ahead and pick a Pennsylvania-only team now and come back with a New York squad if its season does, indeed, play out in the spring.

EVEN WITH an established path, however, there are questions to be answered. Do we select an entire offensive and defensive unit for a 22-player team or do we pick it the same way we do every other Big 30 all-star team and go with a straight 15-player group that isn’t as reliant on position? At this point, the committee is leaning toward the latter, so as to keep it exclusive and because that’s generally the number of players from one state that would be chosen anyway.

Of course, it won’t be easy to select that team in a year where eyewitness accounts are so few. We’ll have to rely more on coaches’ statistics and recommendations and the opinions of our Bradford Era reporters, among those who were actually able to see games in person, than we ever have in the past. The idea of going in so blind has some committeemen understandably uneasy.

Then, too, choosing the team(s) in this manner flouts tradition. This will mark the first time the Big 30 Football All-Star Team is anything other than one group selected jointly in the fall.

AS HAS been the case since March, though, an unprecedented situation calls for an unprecedented response … and that’s what this is.

But most importantly is this: Our PA football players endured a roller-coaster-like situation over the summer, told they were playing, then not playing, then playing again. They did their part to ensure a season, following safety protocols set by both individual school districts and the PIAA. And against tall odds, with only a few minor issues along the way, they made it to the end of that campaign -- one shortened by COVID-19, but a campaign nonetheless.

Because of that, the committee felt the best of those players deserved to be highlighted now, in the form of a PA-only all-star team.

Again, the specifics of how, exactly, that process will go are still being worked out.

Ideally, however, a Pennsylvania all-star squad, one for which the list of quarterbacks is both long and intriguing, will be both selected and announced sometime in December. And with any luck, we’ll be able to do the same for New York and cap off this trying, unparalleled, two-semester season with an in-person football banquet in May or June.

(J.P. Butler, Bradford Publishing Company group sports editor, can be reached at jbutler@oleantimesherald.com)

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