You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
Well, at least for now.
That was the message the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) sent Saint John Paul the Great when the Dumfries-based Catholic school applied for membership into the WCAC this past February. John Paul failed to reach the 75% threshold needed to be accepted into the conference earlier this summer. To be accepted, 10 of the 13 current WCAC schools were required to vote in favor of adding John Paul. The league did not say how many schools voted against admission.
“There’s just not enough data,” said Bill Crittenberger, who was introduced as head of school at Bishop O’Connell July 1. “The vote fell short of the three-fourths majority. We want to take one more year to get to know JP before voting again.”
Crittenberger said John Paul is “still in the hunt” and the league will vote again next summer, but the WCAC wants a better feel for Virginia’s largest Catholic high school between Richmond and Alexandria. John Paul, which opened in 2008, was encouraged to keep scheduling WCAC opponents to see how the school fares against league competition. And on the football field, they will find out.
Between October 7 and November 4, John Paul will take on all five of the WCAC’s Metro League opponents (O’Connell, Ireton, Ryken, PVI & Carroll), and the Wolves hope to improve on last year’s performance that saw the WCAC win all three games against John Paul by combined score of 104-14. And while John Paul boasts 18 different sports programs, the WCAC is known as having two of the best football and basketball conferences in the country, and that is where John Paul hopes to make its case.
Against WCAC competition on the hardwood last year, the Wolves held their own at times. John Paul defeated the newest member of the WCAC, The Heights, 85-76. They hung with Bishop McNamara but lost by large margins to Gonzaga (31 points) and O’Connell (24 points). Their 2023-2024 basketball schedule includes games against The Heights, O’Connell, Paul VI, Gonzaga, Good Counsel, McNamara, Ryken, Ireton, DeMatha and St. John’s. John Paul’s varsity girls team has at least six games scheduled against WCAC opponents to date.
According to Crittenberger, John Paul is the only catholic school currently seeking to join the WCAC, and the Wolves can reapply again next summer. Currently, the WCAC does not have a league commissioner but the league plans to have one in place by the 2024-2025 school year.
Currently, Crittenberger is one of three school administrators serving on the executive counsel overseeing WCAC athletics. In addition to Crittenberger, Rick Wood (St. Mary’s Ryken) and Jeffrey Mancabelli (St. John’s) sit on the executive counsel while Dwayne Bryant (Bishop Ireton), Dennis Hart (St. John’s) and Jon Lombardo (St. Mary’s Ryken) oversee the day-to-day operations of the league. This de facto board will lead the WCAC until a permanent commissioner is chosen. The league has cycled through a handful of commissioners over the past decade.
“We have a distinct interest in having someone run the league as commissioner,” Crittenberger added. “But we plan to take our time to find the right candidate.”