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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Public vs. Private

I've been sitting on this since October, but with this article appearing in today's Daily Record, now is as good a time as ever.

This is a topic that always elicits strong reactions and opinions on either side, and one that doesn't seem to have the "silver bullet" solution.

So the Wayne County schools are now fed up with the imbalance that exists in athletics between private and public schools and wants to lead the charge?  What took so long?  We've been singin' this song since the 70's...apparently.

I was browsing through the Google Newspaper Archives and came across a few mentions of a petition to separate public schools and private schools in Ohio when it came to the state football playoffs.

The articles went on to say that a previous effort was spearheaded by, at that time, Orrville coach Mo Tipton back in the 1970's....1977 to be exact.

Here's the article that appeared in the Toledo Blade in September of 1978 and here's the article that appeared in the Toledo Blade in December of 1978.

Don't they read awful similar to today's issues? So in this case, Mo led a group that collected 285 signatures supporting his referendum, nearly 40% of the entire OHSAA, yet when it came time for a vote, only 122 sided with him and the measure was soundly defeated.

The old article claims that a public school beating Cincinnati Moeller for the state title changed a lot of people's minds, but why would 1 win suddenly be the cure-all to an alleged serious problem? I think when it came time to actually put pen to paper and vote, a lot of administrators didn't feel that obligated to make real change.

What's even more interesting was the timing of this. It was done in the late 70's, Orrville did not make the playoffs in football until 1980. The Orrville teams of the 1970's were not kept out of the playoffs by a private school from what I could tell. I could see this happening in the mid 80's after we had lost to Columbus Ready in the 1983 state finals, to Elyria Catholic in the 1984 state semifinals and to Columbus DeSales in the 1985 state title game, but the state was only 5 years into the playoff system. The timing just seemed odd. Was Mo just a staunch opponent of the parochial schools that felt called to lead this charge?

The Early Years of the Playoffs
Let's look at the landscape of the OHSAA football playoffs in the time they began until Mo filed the petition. At the time, there were only 3 Classes or divisions (AAA, AA & A), but each class still had 4 regions, but back then, only 1 team per region advanced to the playoffs, so the first round of playoffs was the state semifinals. Here's how the first 5 years shook out when looking at public vs. private participants among the teams who made the playoffs.

Class AAA - 0 private schools
Class AA - 2 private schools
Class A - 1 private school

Class AAA - 2 private schools
Class AA - 2 private schools
Class A - 3 private schools

Class AAA - 1 private school
Class AA - 2 private schools
Class A - 3 private schools

Class AAA - 2 private schools
Class AA - 1 private school
Class A - 2 private schools

Class AAA - 3 private schools
Class AA - 1 private school
Class A - 3 private schools

Class AAA - 3 private schools
Class AA - 3 private schools
Class A - 1 private school

So....out of 6 years of playoffs, and 72 playoff berths, 35 went to private schools..or practically 50%. And out of 18 state titles awarded in that same span, 10 went to private schools.

In both cases, it's about a 50-50 split. That's fair right? I guess. But when you consider that 10% (roughly) of the football schools in Ohio are private, it definitely raises an eyebrow.

All you have to do is look at the teams considered dynasties in Ohio high school football....

Cleve. St. Ignatius
Archbishop Moeller
Cincinnati St. Xavier
Cols. St. Francis DeSales
Youngstown Cardinal Mooney
Newark Catholic
Delphos St. Johns

Those 7 teams listed have won a combined 42 state football titles, and have finished runner-up another 22 times.  I don't think you could take the 7 best public school programs in Ohio and come close to those numbers.

Sure you have your public school dynasties like McKinley, Steubenville, Ironton, Coldwater, St. Henry, Versailles and dare I say Orrville, but for every one of them, there seem to be 5 private schools who are just as good.

I'll be clear in saying one thing....the private schools are not cheating, but the rules and how they relate to success on the athletic fields and courts are certainly in their favor.  They simply can do things to attract students (and athletes) that public schools cannot.  That's called an advantage.

What If?
Just imagine if there was a private school in Wayne Co. (let's call it Wooster Christian..err..Catholic) that fielded a football team, and that school could accept enrollees from any resident of the county, or outside of the county for that matter.

So instead of being bound to the limits of a city (Orrville or Wooster) or school district (Green Local, North Central, etc.), a school could have kids attend from anywhere....and said private school could advertise their school's advantages on radio/TV/billboards declaring their school as a better option to those fed up with public schools.....oh, and have we mentioned that we have a football team, that because of our private donations and tuition, we have the nicest uniforms, great facilities, play on turf,
in the playoffs every year and our kids get looked at by colleges more often. Think that would be fair?

Think for a minute about the best 5 kids from every school in the county, and now imagine just 2 of those 5 attending this pretend private school in Wooster. You'd instantly have 20+ all-county kids playing on one team, a team that would probably fall in the smallest of divisions, yet be stacked with talent.   This pretend example plays itself out all over Ohio every year, it's why you see Newark Catholic, Delphos St. John and other similar schools playing in Canton and Massillon every year.

Again, not cheating, they're not taking state dollars, so they can do things how they want, and I'm fine with that, but don't tell me with a straight face that it's a level playing field. It's simply not and the numbers support that.

Separate or Multiply?
To me, this is easy. You multiply. Separate tournaments would not be a good idea. There was something sweeter about beating Ursuline on the way to our 1998 title. The problem with multiplying is what do you do with private schools that are already Division 1 in size? Do you place D1 private schools in their own division? That's an idea, but not a perfect one.

By my count, there are only 28 private schools in the top 3 football divisions in Ohio. Would it make sense to place 16 of those teams into a 4 round playoff each year? Do the same with teams in Divisions 4-5-6?

There are plenty of private schools that don't even field a football team, so the real number of private schools that have an impact on major sports is right around 50.

Maybe I'm a fan of 2 separate tournaments.

Thoughts, mine and yours.
So now this group of county administrators is sending out a survey, which I'm sure will show strong support for a separate system or a multiplier.  But I'll believe it when I see it in terms of real change.

Interesting how this issues comes not a year after two Smithville teams were bounced by parochial schools in the basketball playoffs.  I'd like to know the source of this "referendum."  Is this a Green Local schools issue that needed the support of the rest of the county to be considered legit, or did everyone come up with the idea at the same time?

I know the Riders have seen plenty of defeats to private schools (the 80's in football, the battles with St. V. in basketball, more recently to Mooney in 2006, etc.), so if anyone is qualified to have a valid opinion, it's us.

What do you think should be done, if anything?


Anonymous said...

Nothing. I loved watching the St. V and the Central Catholic games. Competitive edge can be bittersweet. Let us (and schools like us) continue to be successful by beating the powerhouse private schools. Orrville needs to increase their students knowledge in the classrooms before they take it to the fields.

Anonymous said...

I thought that rules in sports are to make sure that one team or indivudual does not gain an unfair advantage over their opponent. The playoff results speak for themselves and the question should not be if there needs to be a change but what change needs to be made. How many times have you heard on TV the Mooney might be the best team in the state regardless of division? Having them play in higer divisions would be a start but I agree... what happens to D1. There was talk of splitting D1 into the bigger and smaller schools. Maybe now with the new stadium in Akron that could become a reality with another facility available. Ohio is lauded for having a great system for determining which teams get to the playoffs. Lets hope this problem gets fixed before the tournament ends up a joke.

Anonymous said...

Ok this is very interesting to me. I was always taught "to be the best you have to beat the best" but is that true in these circumstances? The parochial schools most of the time are the better team, but the way they became the best team is not really fair. I was on the Rider football team when we played St. V in 05, and CCC and Mooney in 06, Mooney had I believe over 10 Division I recruits on that team. Most schools don't even have that many in their history let alone one year. Now that I am in college playing football, that 06 Mooney team could give some teams I play a run for their money, which is rediculous!! It seems like to be able to compete now a days, you have to have people move into your district, or rectruit them to your school. Think about it, while Orrville has had open enrollment we have had some pretty good players move in or come to Orrville (Kam Barnes, Tre Simpson, Thjran Pittman,and even Chase Hoobler and Sam Miller wouldn't of been in Orrville if it weren't for their parents) so you see even though we got lucky the past few years with great athletes, a lot of them were not in the school system the whole way through. Just think, you take all those guys away, do we still have the same success that we had....probably not!

Final comments:
It is unfair, and needs to be changed ASAP!
In order to compete you have to have open enrollment, or recruit.
You can't rely on just the talent within the school system anymore to win and be very successful.
We need to split them up and just have 2 divisions for the catholic schools. (Div. 1-4 public...5-6 are private)

Anonymous said...

Great read and a debate that seems to go on every year.... I would have to say that a system change is in order but I don't think it will happen, I left my days of competition long ago at Orrville mid 90's and I can tell you it is hard to watch these kids bust their tails to get to the playoffs to be beaten by a parochial school with a talent pool that just is not fair! the rules for how talent is attained for a school should determine how that talent is evaluated... Separate divisional playoffs for these schools seems to make sense to me? Anyway great read and love the page!

Red Rider Sports Blog (Tim Snyder) said...

Wonderful comments, really. Some of the best comments I've ever read on this site. I think we're all on the same page, and I'd think that most public schools would be on the same page too, it gets muddy when discussing what to do.

Going to 4 divisions of public schools (roughly 150 per division) and 2 divisions of private schools (30 per division or so) is interesting.

Remember all the resistance when Indiana high school basketball abandoned the "one class" system in favor of divisions? It was the best move because your schools in large population centers were winning all the titles. It wasn't a level field.

Good point about the "best of any division" arguement. When's the last time you heard that said about a public school? That's usually reserved for a Mooney, Iggy or Ursuline type of school. It's never applied to a Coldwater or an Ironton or a Steubenville.

Interesting comment about open enrollment benefitting Orrville. We have had some good players come from other districts, and I think in terms of what's to come, we may see more of that. Our facilities are top notch for the size of school we are, and with all the new schools being built, we may see an influx of students, but the difference is we're not seeking them out. Ever research the % of private school students that participate in extracurriculars compared to public school participation? It's amazingly noticeable.

There does seem to be a lot of small school private teams. Your newark Cath, Delphos St John, Ursuline, etc. Those are the teams who seem to skew the numbers. It's because they're playing with D1 talent and D6 enrollment. Amazing that such a small student body is producing such amazing football teams.

Thanks again all. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

This argument is beyond football in my opinion. Football is one of the more even sports between private and public schools. Check the link below to see total state title numbers.

Upper Arlington was a surprise to me. 17 Boys Golf titles, nice.

Red Rider Sports Blog (Tim Snyder) said...

you're right, this is more than a "football" issue, but football was the easiest for me to write on.

St Edward in Cleveland has dominated the wrestling scene forever, Walsh Jesuit isn't too bad either. St Paris Graham sounds private, but is just a factory school for wrestling that might as well be parochial.

Thank you so much for that link...I hope everyone takes a look at it. St X has won 30 swimming titles in the last 39 yrs? That doesn't alarm anyone that there might be an advantage?

Look at those lists. It's a who's who of parochial schools.