One of the most esteemed and well-respected coaches in the WPIAL, Jonna Burke may not be patrolling the sidelines for Shady Side Academy this upcoming season.

Coming off a successful season that included a 25-4 record and a trip to the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals in her second year as the Bulldogs’ coach, Burke received a one-year suspension from the WPIAL board of directors for an alleged recruiting violation after an approximately 90-minute hearing on Thursday afternoon.

WPIAL executive director Scott Seltzer said the board voted unanimously to suspend Burke, who plans to appeal the decision to the PIAA.

“We’re tasked with making sure everybody follows the constitutional bylaws of the PIAA,” Seltzer said. “When it’s brought to our attention, we have a hearing on it. … It wasn’t a closed hearing. Actually, it was open. We did present a case, but they can always appeal to the state [level].”

According to Seltzer, the alleged recruiting violation involved a direct message conversation on social media between Burke and the parents of a middle school student in the South Fayette School District.

Shady Side Academy athletic director Sean Simmons released a statement Thursday evening indicating the school’s intention to appeal the WPIAL ruling. The statement read as follows:

“As one of the original founding schools of the WPIAL, Shady Side Academy takes very seriously the importance of following WPIAL and PIAA rules. In fact, SSA’s own school policies regarding recruiting hold our coaches to a higher standard than that of the WPIAL and PIAA. We fully support Coach Jonna Burke and do not believe she violated any WPIAL or PIAA rules or policies. While we appreciate the time the board took to hear this matter, we are disappointed that the WPIAL failed to follow its own rules by not presenting a case, and its own procedures in rendering a decision. For these reasons, Shady Side Academy plans to appeal this decision.”

Burke, who was unable to comment on the WPIAL ruling, coached for eight seasons at Butler and 18 at Bethel Park — winning a WPIAL title with the Black Hawks in 2013 — before arriving at Shady Side in 2021. She surpassed 500 wins for her career last season, and she holds a career coaching record of 518-212.

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at