Throughout the fall the Kansas High School Activities Association tried to come to terms with the equity in high school athletics in public vs. private schools.
Over a decade ago I served on the Public/Non-Public Committee that produced the present-day multiplier used by the state of Missouri to classify private schools. It is an issue found in every state in the country. Each state confronts the issue differently. It is not an easy task to arrive at a fair and equitable solution.
The Missouri multiplier has not provided a total solution. All students should have an equal opportunity to compete at the state level of competition. Private schools have been taken to task because they have been statistically found to have an advantage in several sports. Many feel that it is an unfair advantage for students to choose which school they prefer to attend.
Public school students are governed by geographic restrictions. Private schools have the right to solicit students. Public schools do not. Statistics bear out that private schools win state championships at a higher rate than public schools. Both have merit.
There have been hundreds of ad-hoc committees established across the country in hopes of producing the magic answer. As yet, there is no special formula to level this universal playing field. In Missouri, smaller private schools are moved up to larger class sizes by the use of a multiplier. They will compete against schools with larger enrollments.
A major flaw in the system is that larger private schools are not affected. They are already in the largest class. The only affected private schools are the small schools. Obviously, the small private schools feel it is not a fair process.
The argument by public schools is that private schools have no boundaries. They are able to attract students for a number of different reasons, one of which is athletics. The conflict raises its ugly head during state playoffs every year. It is an age-old problem discussed in conference rooms, schools, courtrooms and bars all over the country without ever arriving at a solution.
As a committee member it was a mind-boggling task. The Missouri multiplier was a stopgap solution. I could understand the views of both sides. Many of the small private schools received a punishment when they were not a dominant school in state competition.
I voted for the Missouri state multiplier, but I never felt it completely leveled the playing field. Stories surface every year about recruitment of athletes to gain a competitive edge at private and public schools alike. This should not be allowed to happen at any high school in any sport, but you cannot legislate integrity.
It has been proposed that there should be separate state championships – one for public schools and one for private schools. I am not a fan. The argument would still exist for which team was the true state champion.
The elephant in the room always boils down to recruitment. Violations can occur in both arenas. Recruiting violations should be called out and handled appropriately by the state associations. Most people seem to be more apt to complain rather than to confront questionable recruiting ethics.
If some state association could come up with a silver bullet to fix the problem, it would be super, but for the time being it will remain unsolved. Integrity on both sides needs to win out over schools who do not play by the rules on either side.
• The Brain Association of Missouri is sponsoring its annual Sports Concussions Seminar: Facts, Fallacies and New Frontiers on March 4 from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It will be at KC First Church of the Nazarene, 11811 State Line Road, Kansas City, Mo. 64114. Admission and lunch are free. You can register online at WWW.BIAMO.ORG or call the Brain Injury Association of Missouri at 314-426-4024. It is a great seminar to attend for anyone involved in youth sports.
• My quote of the week comes from James Garfield, 20th president of the United States: “The men who succeed best in public life are those who take the risk of standing by their own convictions.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.