Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do Private Schools Have an Advantage Over Public?

In Oklahoma, message boards are inundated with discussions concerning certain advantages of private schools over public schools.

Since my arrival here in 2005, it seems like the subject comes up monthly. For the most part, it is people from smaller towns whining about private schools from bigger cities winning championships. Quite frankly, the discussion is getting old.

These fans from small towns do have a point. If you are a small town with one high school, schools get what they get within the district. Private schools from bigger cities have more people, which sometimes means more talent.

However, schools from cities and suburbs such as Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and even Lawton also have a huge advantage over schools from places such as Bartlesville and Enid. More often that not, bigger cities have something called open enrollment. If there is a solid program within these cities, athletes will travel to these schools to participate.

Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City takes the brunt of the private school criticism. When you win eight total state championships in the 2007-2008 school year, a heavy dose of criticism comes with it. The Fighting Irish won two straight football titles in 4A (first two in school history) entering the 2008 season and have won three straight state boys basketball championships.

Despite McGuinness’ dominance on the gridiron – which included 28 straight victories at one point – only one player from either state title team went to play college football at the Division I level on scholarship. This season for the 6-2 Irish, one player has Division I talent in tight end/defensive end Gabe Ikard.

Most of these whiners suggest McGuinness recruits within Oklahoma City due to a win-at-all-costs mentality. Following the McGuinness state title team closely in 2006 as the sports editor of the MidCity Advocate, to merely suggest that McGuinness recruited to win a state football championship is ludicris. If McGuinness recruited, wouldn’t more players have went on to play football at the Division I level?

McGuinness won its first state title by buying in to a team concept. It was one of the most well-coached teams these eyes have ever seen, led by born leader and quarterback Joseph Krenger. McGuinness pounded the ball down your throat with three different running backs and played solid defense. At any level, public or private, if you run the ball well and play stingy defense, it is a recipe for success.

Some of these small town fans also suggest that Oklahoma should divide private and public schools into two separate divisions, like in Texas.

First of all, Oklahoma is not big enough to form two separate divisions. Oklahoma does not have enough private schools to conceivably believe it would be feasible to form an organization for private schools. For a state the size of Oklahoma, the amount of classifications it has for football is insane already.

For all of these small school complainers, where are the complainers from Class 6A suburban schools such as Moore, Norman, and Midwest City? All three suburbs have at least two 6A public high schools, with Moore opening a third just two months ago. Tulsa Union and Broken Arrow both have between 4,200 and 4,500 students, whereas these schools in suburban Oklahoma City hover in the neighborhood of 1,500.

Which is more of an injustice? A private school from a big city playing a school from with a smaller public school with the same enrollment? Or Tulsa Union lining up against a Midwest City that has 3,000 less students? Or better yet, a Tulsa Union lining up against a school such as Enid that cannot possibly benefit from open enrollment?

Mid-Del Public Schools have three public high schools within its district; Midwest City, Del City, and Carl Albert. Midwest City and Del City participate in Class 6A, while Carl Albert has been the most dominant football program in Class 5A over the past two decades. If you were to take the enrollment of Midwest City, Del City, and Carl Albert combined, the Mid-Del super school would not be larger than Tulsa Union and Broken Arrow.

Carl Albert, winners of nine football state titles since 1989, proves it can be done in a public school system. If “recruiting” in private schools was as prevalent as some would suggest, why hasn’t Tulsa Bishop Kelley been more dominant in Class 5A?

At last check, Jenks and Tulsa Union have combined to win the last 12 state championships in Class 6A football. Pundits from around the country, including myself at times, want to put Jenks amongst the top programs in the nation for winning nine of those titles.

Is Jenks winning at a level playing field? Jenks, according to the last ADM released by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, had 2,800 students. Jenks is still ranked third in Oklahoma in attendance, but is still 1,400 students less than rival Union. If Jenks doesn’t win it, in theory, Tulsa Union or Broken Arrow should because most of the schools it will face on the road to the state championship will have half the students.

With open enrollment at Tulsa Union and Jenks, is it still fair? If private schools allegedly have an advantage of public schools, which they don't, a similiar injustice takes place in Class 6A.

Oklahoma has no choice than to lower the number of classes and ask Union and Broken Arrow to split up.

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