This story appeared in the Marion Star recently, indicating that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA, the PIAA’s Ohio counterpart) is looking at separating the public and private school championships. (Hat tip to District 3 treasurer Bob baker and District 3 committee member Doug Bohannon for passing this along.)

Bishop Guilfoyle's girls' basketball teams have made several honorary trips to the state Capitol

Based on the story, this issue has some legs in Ohio. That’s interesting because the reasons for considering such a drastic move are virtually identical to the reasons the issue has been discussed – without success – in Pennsylvania.

As noted, only three states that have private schools as members of their state associations have separate championships. Other states have only public schools as members.

As it happens, Pennsylvania is ripe for a serious look at the matter, even though Catholic schools are shrinking in enrollment and numbers (Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, which each used to have numerous Catholic high schools, are each served by one now; several Philadelphia area Catholic schools have merged in the last three years).

The PIAA is currently in the process of reviewing its entire structure, from the public vs. private issue right down to how it qualifies schools for its championships. Never has the climate been better for actual change.

But the question here is: Should it change? Advocates of separate championships for public and private schools or at least a different system of classification for private schools are passionate about the issue. Proof is that the matter is revisited on an perennial basis.

Personally, I think this is Crybaby Central and always has been. The privates have an advantage available to them, but I can’t abide separate championships.

It is a fact that private schools have won a high proportion of basketball championships relative to their numbers, especially in Class AA and and Class A. The problem is especially acute in small-school girls basketball.

The privates show up pretty large in other sports as well, soccer chief among them. But by and large, private school dominance is a non-issue in a number of sports. There’s an enormous amount of data available on this issue, but we’re just going to focus on totals.

All-time, there have been 1,580 PIAA team championships in all sports (excluding gymnastics, which is absent complete results).

Of those 1,580 team titles, 243 – or 15 percent – have been won by private schools. That’s roughly the percentage of private schools that are PIAA members.

But private schools have only been PIAA members since 1972; PIAA has been conducting championships since 1920, starting with boys basketball and adding other sports over the years.

When the pre-1972 years are excluded, the percentage of private school championships jumps to about 26 percent, an over-representation, but one inflated by the basketball results.

Since this is a general, and not a scientific, exercise, I’m skipping past all of the necessary statistics and disclaimers and possibilities to get to a central point: Yes, privates do have an advantage because of their ability to draw from multiple public school districts and even nationwide (Milton Hershey comes to mind).

But so what? I get the advantage, but I can’t stand the whining. I wouldn’t argue against a reasonable remedy regarding classifications, but there is no way I would support separate championships. The great thing about the PIAA Championships is they are virtually all-inclusive since the addition of the Philadelphia Public League and Philadelphia Catholic League schools. In that sense, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, yes, there are some private school issues that merit serious discussion. But separate championships should not be a part of that discussion.

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  12 Responses to “Ohio next to split public and private schools?”

  1. Rod,
    The real problem is that the PIAA doesn’t look at the one factor that causes the issue to come up in the major sports that people complain loudest about. The main one of course is most noticed in Basketball. Public and Private schools that have teams playing in multiple sports year around are bounced and pushed up by schools that only support a few sports. Why is it fair that a school that plays A or AA football and say soccer in the fall is forced up to AA or AAA in Basketball? The issue is that it is much easier to field a Basketball team by a small private school then it is 2 or 3 major sports in the fall, winter and spring seasons by a school. But these smaller schools are then treated as equals by the PIAA when they do a numbers crunch. Thus the smaller private school’s that have a budget of say a view thousand dollars have a totally equal billing as a school that supports multiple teams in each season. These schools affect the entire balance of classification especially in Basketball. The more small privates that put together a BB team the more teams at the upper ends of each classification happens to force X amount of teams up a classification. Let’s face it. It’s actual mostly Christian schools that cause this. Take away that factor and run the numbers and Schools that field the full teams all year long at playing with and at the same level as they compete at other sports.. What I call their TRUE classifications.

    Now I am not saying that the small privates should not be allowed to participate. They should. But what should not happen is to allow their inability to effect ALL sports in ALL seasons the in the same manor as they do in Basketball. Since they are really minority members of the PIAA not supporting all sports, then they should not factor in on just one thing… numbers classifications. Run the numbers the same way to classify schools in each sport but don’t count the numbers and schools of the minority members.

    When playoffs come, they qualify the same way everyone else does and get placed according to their enrollment numbers at that time. What you’ll get is returning the handful of lower AA schools put back down where they are normally competing at in all their other sports to being the higher numbered A schools. Same thing happens at AAA… the bottom end drops down to AA where they are at for most other sports. AAAA same thing happens.

    Now ask how that effects competition at all levels? AAAA doesn’t really matter because if a smaller numbered school is good enough to compete at AAAA they are going to bump up anyway on their own. The rest of AAAA will stay there anyway. AAA and AA get a whole new level of completion as larger numbers and potentially stronger programs drop back down into their normal place. Single A would get stronger as well but should not effect a good quality Private school from making a serious run but they may find it harder to get those coveted higher seeds that a few can get these days before getting bumped by a team with a 500 record.

    At worst case if you want to be touchy feely about it at A level is just qualify more teams for the playoffs. Let’s face it, most of those small Christian schools that are effecting the balance of all levels are going to enter with the same records anyways cause they are just padding their records by playing each other anyways. Now I do know that there are a few good ones out there that play for competition but this setup wouldn’t hurt a single one of those smaller schools. What it would do is bring back down enough of the teams that get bumped up a classification to compete with the Privates and Catholic schools that would remain where they fit in with ALL the schools in the classification mix. That’s the level that thats the level that they want to compete at anyways. The Catholics for the most part want the competition anyways but the way it is done today to classify the schools keeps that from happening to many times.

    Simple formula… count all the schools participating in a sport for the next 2 year cycle and place the full member Catholic and Private schools where they come in at. Next remove the minority, (smaller schools that don’t support at least 2 major sports in all 3 seasons), from the classifications and re-classify the Full Member schools. Next, any full member catholic or private school is automatically returned to the classification that they first were classified at. Lastly return the minority, (smaller schools), back to the classification that they were originally placed. Ta Da… You just placed FULL member programs back where they belong and also at the same time made for more and better competition all around.

    What you’re not doing is trying to be unfair to one group or another by like saying to force every private or Catholic school up a classification because of the reasons you already noted. What you’re doing is bringing back down the programs that should already be down at the lower classification that they play for other sports year around. This could be done for other sports such as Baseball as well.

    To me Rod, what the PIAA needs to start realizing that to classify schools in a given sport doesn’t always mean that if you have 4 classifications in a sport you don’t necessary have to divide the schools up evenly just based on numbers of kids going to that school. Somewhere they need to use common sense and realize all schools and teams are not alike just based solely on numbers of kids going to a school. Maybe start thinking about factoring other things such as normal amount of participants that each school fields as well.

    Nice chatting with you and sorry for any and ALL mis-spellings etc and for the long story. Let me know what you think then of the idea.

  2. Dave, first of all, congratulations on what I believe is the longest comment yet published in the brief history of Second, I might joke about the length of your comment, but you bring up a lot of good points. I’m not going to address them point-by-point, but I’ll just say that PIAA is looking into some of those issues as part of its comprehensive review of the organization’s structure. The PIAA Board of Directors meets next in October, and the board will develop of survey of member schools at that time. It could be a whopper if all of these pet issues, including yours, make it onto paper, but I think it’s a very good thing for PIAA.

  3. Interesting evaluation. But, isn’t there an equal amount of advantage, in sheer student body numbers for public schools. Personally, I think it all evens out.

  4. The way you put it – that it essentially evens out in the long run – is pretty much accurate as an average. But there are some serious inequities in certain classes, especially in girls basketball. For instance, there hasn’t been a public school girls basketball champion in Class AA since 2000 (Karns City), in Class A since 2004 (Monessen) and only two in Class AAA (Hopewell in 2006 and 2007) since 2001.

    It’s that kind of dominance that has set some people a-fire and demanding changes. My point is that public schools have to do a better job of retaining their athletes and building healthy programs. The only thing the PIAA can and should do is take a good, hard look at classifications. The separate tournaments should be off the table.

  5. Dave makes some great points about common sense playing a role in classifications. But since this whole brouhaha comes from a juvenile jealousy based on one sport, I doubt anyone in charge will let common sense into the equation.

    I wrestled for a private school. I coached at a public school. Both were down in Maryland, where the two sides are legally not allowed to compete for state championships together – the state equivalent of the PIAA is an arm of the Department of Education which only accepts public schools as members.

    Nothing is more destructive to the health of Maryland sports than the private/public split. If Pennsylvania went down that path, it would ruin all the good things that exist in the state’s athletic structure. All so a handful of people can claim they put Catholic basketball teams in their place. Shameful that it even comes up for discussion.

  6. Ditto. A whole buncha dittos.

  7. Girl’s basketball is just the clearest example of the problem, not the only 1.

    I do not think that it is right when a high school wrestling team that for the most part has worked together for years loses to a ShadySide Academy team with half of its team consisting of recently enrolled all-stars.

    Or in football – Mike White listed for 2010 9 different students that transferred to Greensburg Central Catholic to play this year. Plus over a 7 year period North Catholic had 91 football transfers into their program.

    The PIAA (and Ohio/others) aren’t/can’t keep students from going to private schools for athletic purposes. How did Lebron pay for his private schooling @ St. Vincent/St. Mary?

    The Ohio article didn’t elaborate on things, but I haven’t heard of any problems with New Jersey, Texas, or Florida caused by their separations.

  8. On the other hand, Susquehanna Twp. received 8 transfers this year in football alone, and one of those will definitely be ‘Hanna’s starting quarterback. It does work both ways, O.

  9. currently ssitting at the ohsaa girls volleyball state finals. 6 Of 8 teams are private schools. The biggest issue that bothers me is the truly unfair advatage private school girls have regarding training and playing together in the off season. Most club web sites had statements “if you attend a public school you are not eligible to participate in training, workouts,etc, If you are active on a your school team”. These training and workout advantages hold true 12 months out of the year. I’ll give the privare schools all the off court advantages but the training rules should apply to all schools.

  10. look at indiana out of 5 football classes 4 were won by private schools sounds like a clear advantage to me

  11. The privates certainly did well in Indiana this year – two of the five finals were all-private – and four of of the five champions were private schools. But one year does not make a scientific sample. I checked the last five years (I was constrained by time), and teh private still held a nice advantage: Private schools have 12 of the last 20 Indiana state football championships.

    I do not know what the percentage of private school membership is in Indiana; in Pennsylvania, it is just below 20 percent. Of the 32 schools still in contention for a PIAA football title, 9 – or 28 percent – are private schools.

    So privates are a bit over-represented, but it’s not egregious. What could well happen, though, is that many of those 9 schools could well advance this weekend. The only private-vs-private matchup this week is Bishop Carroll vs. Holy Name.

    I will say if three private schools win titles this year – and La Salle, Allentown CC, Cathedral Prep, Bishop McDevitt, West catholic possibly even Trinity are all capable, the screaming will start anew.

    But I won’t be one of the screamers.

  12. In the past 10 years, privates have won 35 of 40 state titles in single and double A basketball.
    If not for wpial AA your looking at 39/40. If that is not a clear unfair advantage. What is?

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