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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Complaining about Parochial Schools....again....and my solution.

I wrote on this topic last year, but it's such an easy target, I'll trot it out again this year. The just-completed state football championships again pointed out the lack of a level playing field in Ohio high school football, as 5 of the 6 state title winners were private schools.

Stats never lie...and I've got a bunch of 'em to prove my point.

In three of those five wins, the games were non-competitive blowouts with an average winning margin of over 40 points a game. The most egregious examples were in Ohio's smallest two divisions where Youngstown Ursuline (D-5) beat Coldwater, 51-21 and Delphos St. Johns (D-6) set all kinds of records in beating Shadyside 77-6 in a game most said could have been more lopsided if the Blue Jays would have wanted it that way.

State titles shouldn't be won by 71 points.  Delphos could have had a bad day and STILL won by 40 points.  If that's not a shining example of a competitive imbalance, I don't know what is.

Giving Credit
Before I go any further, I want to make very clear that I really enjoy watching teams play at the highest level. There's something to appreciate about Delphos St. John winning the state title by 71 points, and there's a big part of me that enjoyed watching Akise Teague and the Ursuline Irish do basically whatever they wanted in throttling Coldwater.

But every coin has a flip side. You can't tell me that Shadyside doesn't have fewer dedicated players & coaches and were "outworked" & "outcoached" by Delphos St. Johns.  They just didn't have the talent that Delphos did.  Not by a country mile....and therein lies the problem.

Clearly, there's an imbalance. But like I said last year, the rules as they are being written are being followed (unless you're Elyria Catholic), but that doesn't mean the rules as they are written are fair.

Not just Football
One quick peek at the OHSAA website clearly says this isn't a football-only problem.  Here's how the team state titles shook out in Ohio's five other fall sports.
  • Cross Country had four public school titles, and two private school titles across boys and girls divisions.
  • Golf had two public school titles and three private school crowns across both boys and girls divisions.
  • Soccer's five divisions (3 boys & 2 girls divisions) saw private schools take three of the five state titles.
  • Girls tennis saw private schools sweep both singles & doubles in Division 1.  Public schools won both in D-2
  • Maybe the most glaring example of an imbalance is in volleyball, where ALL FOUR state titles went to private schools, and two more finished runner-up.
I'm no mathematician, but by my count, that's 16 of the 25 team state titles (64%) won during the fall sports season going to parochial schools. Just to reiterate, parochial schools make up roughly 10% of the schools in Ohio. 

I've heard the statement made that public schools "just need to get better" and "need to work harder" and most of all, public schools need to "stop whining."  I can't dismiss those statements any harsher.  It's simple hogwash to think that "hard work" is instilled more at places like Lakewood St. Edward or Columbus Bishop Watterson than it is in Ironton, Coldwater or Orrville.

Want to know how advantages are gained?  Here's my top four reasons.

1.  Parochial schools are not bound by city or school district residency limits.  Above all else, this is the biggest factor in why parochial schools enjoy an on-field advantage.  It means a wider pool of potential athletes, and most certainly means an increased in the number of talented athletes on one team.  I'll again use the example of a fictitious private school based in Wooster that could pull 5 kids from every county school and form one super team to compete at the Division 5 level.  Think that team would win a state title a few times every decade, at least?

2.  Private Dollars = More Athletics $$.  Think it's a coincidence that Hoban, Canton Central Catholic and Akron St. V are three of the very few local schools that have installed field turf that costs anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000?  They can raise new funds and divert funds (tuition) wherever they please as they don't accept state dollars.  Think that they follow the same formula that public schools do in terms of funding athletics?  Nicer facilities have the ability to create an on-field competitive advantage. 

3.  Public School Decay.  Notice how a lot of the highly regarded parochial schools also reside in larger cities?  Akron Hoban, Akron St. V, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Columbus Watterson, Columbus DeSales, Youngstown Mooney, Youngstown Ursuline, Toledo St. Ursula, Cincinnati St. Xavier, Cincinnati Moeller, just to name a few, all reside in large population centers where the city schools aren't exactly leading the way in athletic or academic achievement.

Not saying that public schools as a whole are decaying, but where struggles do exist, parochial schools have stepped in as an alternative, and in some cases, have seen their athletic programs benefit as a result.

4.  Parochial Schools DO hold kids to higher standards.  Let's face it, when education isn't "free" and you're paying thousands of dollars a year for your son or daughter to attend private school, you'll make darn sure they're getting the most out of it, both academically and athletically.  That HAS to payoff on the athletic fields just like it does in the classroom.  Read the information at this link.  They say it better than I ever could.  Again, this points to public schools being under the auspices of the state and private schools being a little more free to "run their own show" in all areas.

That last point is, in my opinion, a great reason to consider attending private schools.  If you have the conviction and the financial ability to send your kid to a school like that, I'll never question that.  But you have to concede that all of the above reasons DO create competitive advantages that public schools just aren't able to (legally) replicate.

My Solution
For the reasons stated above, I think the OHSAA needs to do SOMETHING to even things out.  A Division 5 school (like Youngstown Ursuline) shouldn't be in the discussion for the best team in all of Ohio.  That points to a systemic problem.

Here's what I think should happen, using football as the example, do the following..

1.  Shrink to five public school divisions, add a 6th division for private schools only.

2.  Within that private school division, there would be two "flights" "A" flight for private schools with more than 300 boys and a "B" flight for private schools with less than 300 boys.  Each flight would have four regions.

3.  16 teams from each flight (four per region) would qualify for the playoffs and be paired off in the traditional seeding format based on Harbin computer points, the first four weeks would establish a winner of the "A" and "B" flights.  The final 5th week would have the two flight winners face off for an "All Flights" private school champion.

There you go.  I decided to go with two flights of parochial schools because other than obvious small school parochials like Delphos St. John and Youngstown Ursuline, most smaller private schools wouldn't be able to compete with the larger private schools like Ignatius, Moeller and the like.

If that's too confusing, just use a multiplier.  A multiplier of 1.5 (for example) would make a school like Delphos St John a D-5 school, and it would bump Youngstown Ursuline up two divisions to Division 3.  Plenty of merit in that solution too....and it would keep public schools and private schools in the same divisions.


Anonymous said...

Have to disagree on this one. You used the DIV game as a blowout & it was a 7 point margin going into the 4th qtr. A bounce on the onside kick and the game got away from Chagrin Falls, but not a blowout. Also, St. Eds won their 1st state title while Bishop Hartley & Watterson won just their 2nd ea. Hartleys last title was in '86. None of these programs have had the overall success we have.

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

4 of 6 titles in 2009 were private schools, 4 of 6 in 2008 were private. Now 5 of 6 in 2010. That doesn't speak to a problem at all?

A public school hasn't won a state title in Div 4, 5 or 6 in the past 3 years worth of state finals.

And about Watterson, they have 21 playoff appearances just like us, have finished runner-up 3 times and have 2 state titles. I'd say that's every bit as much tradition as us...and 1 more title. Sine 1992, they've missed the playoffs only twice.

Anonymous said...

The OHSAA has their head stuck where the moon doesn't shine. These are Catholic schools you are talking about and you have the right solution. Put them in their own division. They can recruit from anywhere they please and are not regulated by the OHSAA. It is not fair in any way to the public schools at all. They should make sure they are all Catholic and baptised in the church. Again I agree with you and for what it's worth, I'm Catholic and a Red Rider fan all the way. Proud of it.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with that system you created, but then we would have the discussion of we are watering down the system....

I would like to see this system in place:
Division I-III private schools play in Division I
Division IV-VI private schools play in division II

Let their "small numbers" but great teams play these schools with bigger enrollments and not water down the system. Also I must add that private schools should not be allowed to control their enrollment, Usuline used to be Division III at one time, then dropped to IV, now they are V, they are picking which championship will be the easiest for them to win and getting in that division.
You said it yourself, not one public school has won a state title in division IV-VI since 2007, it will only get worse if nothing is done.

Unknown said...

I'm from Oregon. It's not just an Ohio problem. It's all over the country. Maryland and Virginia have the problem. California has to a great extent solved part of it but Oregon has not. I've been fighting this since I was in high school in the early 1950's in California.
Let's dial up the volume on this issue. Bought Time.

Anonymous said...

Any school that can take players from all over the area has an unfair advantage over any district bound public school. Ursuline and Mooney are both catholic schools that dominate the state and are top competitors in the country. For instance Akise Teague was awarded Mr. Football for the state of Ohio over Ohio States current quarterback Braxton Miller. The thing about that is Ursuline is a division 5 football team that plays public schools in the playoffs with the public schools maybe averaging a little over 100 students. If you look at Ursuline's other sports teams they are mediocre at best. At my school, a division 5 public school, my basketball team had 5 skinny white kids with only 3 of them being over 6 feet tall and we beat them pretty good in a scrimmage. It shows that Ursuline is clearly bringing in athletes from all over the area and limiting the number of non-athlete students to get state titles in football. This just shows that the true motive behind Ursuline High School is not on academics when it should be. Anyways it just seems unfair that public schools state playoff contentions are withering away as the parochial and charter schools are becoming stronger.