Public vs. Private controversy continues on

674602.png

Public vs. Private controversy continues on

In January, executive director Marty Hickman of the Illinois High School Association spent time with executive directors from around the country. No, they weren't comparing golf handicaps or favorite vacation retreats.

The No. 1 topic of conversation?

Public schools vs. private schools--and how to deal with the issue.

"Last year, our friends in Indiana had five classes in football and four private school champions -- and the same four won the previous year," Hickman said. "Obviously, that has generated discussion in Indiana. And the same thing has happened in Iowa."

Illinois has felt the pinch, too. Montini has won three state football championships in a row. Joliet Catholic, Mount Carmel and Providence have won more state football titles than any other school. Marian Central and Bishop McNamara dominated the 1980s.

In girls sports, Mother McAuley has won 13 state titles in volleyball, three in water polo and one in basketball. Quincy Notre Dame has 10 state titles in basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. Breese Mater Dei has six state titles in volleyball.

According to Matt Troha of the IHSA, 192 of 792 member schools or 24 percent are non-boundaried. That includes Simeon, Whitney Young, Normal University High and other non-private schools that draw students via an application process and not from a fixed area.

In 2008-09, non-boundaried schools won 17 of 67 or 25 percent of the team state championships. The boys won 10 of 34, the girls 7 of 33.

In 2009-10, the figure was 18 of 67 or 26 percent. The boys won 9 of 34, the girls 9 of 33.

In 2010-11, the number rose to 28 percent, 19 of 67, with the boys winning 10 of 34 titles and the girls winning 9 of 33.

In Indiana, while private schools make up only 14 percent of the membership, they win nearly 40 percent of team championships. And seven of the 10 schools that participated in the state football finals last year were non-public, the most ever.

In Ohio, private schools win 70 percent of the wrestling titles, 63 percent of the volleyball titles, 50 percent of the girls soccer and baseball titles, 47 percent of the football titles and 45 percent of the boys soccer titles. And only 16 percent of the membership are non-public.

State officials were so outraged by the domination of private schools that they proposed a plan which called for elevating some schools to higher classes and lowering others based on a formula that included tradition, non-boundary factors and socio-economics. It was narrowly defeated.

Some states have separate playoffs for public and private schools, including New York, Vermont, Virginia and Texas. Wisconsin's private schools once had their own governing association but the state has since realigned because school officials didn't want some schools treated differently than others. Other states are thinking about about adopting separate playoff formats.

Since 2009, eight of the 51 state associations, including Illinois, have adopted a multiplier formula which calls for private schools to multiply the number of their student enrollment by a designated figure. In so doing, smaller private schools are reclassified to compete against larger public schools.

Private school administrators argue that the process is unfair and the public vs. private debate has been waging ever since private schools began to dominate in certain sports.

Illinois, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Missouri are among the states that utilize multipliers in an effort to satisfy critics of the public vs. private issue. But all of them admit they are wrestling with the problem, trying to figure out what is fair.

"For the most part, since going to the multiplier and the individual sport waiver, the publicprivate issue hasn't been as big a topic of debate among Illinois administrators as it once was," Hickman said.

"There still is a lot of animosity between public and private schools. We have done some things and helped to level the playing field. But there is no magic silver bullet. What we have done is better than the alternative, which is doing nothing."

A side issue to all of this is the subject of transferring, which is reaching epidemic proportions. It doesn't matter whether they are public or private, city or suburban or Downstate, kids are moving from school to school for the purpose of playing sports.

They want to compete at a higher level with and against elite athletes and have an opportunity to gain more exposure to major Division I coaches. It is all about money and scholarships and ego with absolutely no regard for the fact that the percentages, like betting in Las Vegas, are against you.

The latest high-profile case in Illinois involved baseball star Ryan Koziol, who transferred from Brother Rice to Providence. Koziol, who is committed to Arizona, caused a furor when the principal at Brother Rice refused to sign off on the move, claiming the youngster's move was entirely baseball-related.

The IHSA upheld the principle's decision and ruled that Koziol was ineligible to compete at Providence. But the Koziol family went to court and a judge overturned the IHSA's ruling. So what happened to the premise that you go to school to get an education, not to hit home runs?

"It is embedded in our philosophy. It is a bad thing when kids transfer for athletic reasons," Hickman said. "But we have no actual rule prohibiting such a move. We had a proposal to include in our transfer form that a school had to attest there was no motive. But it was rejected by the Legislative Commission. Maybe it's time to bring that proposal back into play.

"The problem is there are two parts to the rule--it gives the principal a voice in the transfer but he has to point to a violation of the by-laws. But there is no rule in black-and-white. Change was rooted in some solid philosophy."

But Hickman admits that the IHSA's one-time transfer rule from one private school to another has encouraged more transferring than ever before. At one time, the rules didn't allow for Koziol to go from private to private for any reason.

"Kids are using the one-time transfer rule for athletic reasons," Hickman said.

So maybe it's time to change the rules.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

james-franklin-1207.jpg
USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead