A recent Wichita Eagle article claimed that private schools champion a “disproportionate amount of success compared to their public-school peers”.
Analysis within The Eagle article reveals that 39.2 percent of State championships since 2007 have been won by private schools.
Critics of private school success are calling for a Kansas statute to be reworded and passed that takes out a reference to student enrollment in determining classifications. If put to a statewide vote, public schools that largely outnumber private schools could easily pass a measure.
82 percent of Kansas State High School Activities Association schools agreed that a change is needed for the current classification system, according to a survey conducted by Paola athletic director Jeff Hines and Girard Middle School principle Randy Heatherly.
Hines – among other modifier proponents – attribute private school success to being located in large metropolitan areas that draw from larger populations compared to other schools competing in the same classification.
“If you’re a small-town Kansas kid, you don’t get the opportunity of dreaming of winning championships or qualifying for the state tournament because a private school is in their sub-state,” Hines said. “And that’s not a defeatist mentality at all. That’s just reality. It’s just not realistic to think you can win a state title because look at who’s in your class.”
Several coaches from public and private schools alike voice disagreement in The Eagle article.
“We rarely, if ever, get transfers and most of our kids have been in Catholic school since they were in kindergarten,” said Bishop Carroll football coach Alan Schuckman.
“I’m not smart enough to figure out who’s going to be a good athlete in kindergarten by the time they’re in high school. I feel like we’ve built our program up the right way and now we’re being somewhat penalized for it.”
Northwest – Carroll’s West Side rival – football coach Steve Martin agrees with Schuckman’s sentiment.
“We had some lopsided losses to Carroll when I first got here, but there wasn’t ever a time where I said, ‘Oh my God, we can’t compete with them because they’re a private school,’ ” Martin said. “We just had to get better and figure out a way to beat them. I never thought they had an unfair advantage because they were a private school.”
An Insider’s Perspective
Several factors are left unexplored in The Eagle’s article, so from this point forward I will step out of my reporter’s shoes and into my old cleats as a Bishop Carroll graduate.
While Hines and many others may seek to “level the playing field” by kicking private schools up a classification, I believe that the argument for doing so is fundamentally flawed. Private schools don’t leverage an advantage from larger pools of athletes or better talent, but rather a winning mentality.
There are several things that I believe separated Bishop Carroll football from other programs. Faith, discipline, tradition: the things that you just can’t cultivate in a government institution the way you can in a private one.
We shared a Catholic faith that unified us as brothers, in the very least by consistent ritual, if not by spiritual bond. It was a common belief and a common vision that brought us together every Friday in the adoration chapel and in pregame mass, allowing us to enter into every game centered and determined.
We were shaped by a militarized discipline beginning just before sunrise and ending long after sunset during late summer’s “Hell Week”, sweating out Friday night’s victory every Saturday morning, and getting ready for next year as soon as the season ended. Our coaches demanded excellence inside the classroom as well as on the field. Myself, along with my teammates, occasionally paid for our sins of mischief, tardiness or other misconduct.
Our community upheld a tradition that is arguably unrivaled in the state of Kansas. Thousands of people – students, fans, family and community members – gathered Friday nights at Bishop Carroll Family Stadium in a display that puts most collegiate Division II home sections to shame.
But the glue that held all of these things together was an incredible coaching staff. I remember the beginning of every single season, our head coach Alan Schuckman would say the same exact thing:
“Our goal this year is to win a state championship.”
So it was from Freshmen year on that I learned to set my goals as high as I possibly can. After all, why shoot for less?
And in 2012, my senior year, we won a state championship for the first time in 36 years in an undefeated season averaging 52.5 points a game. As a second string scrub, I had just as much if not more playing time than the starter in front of me.
So regardless of calls to modify or amend Kansas statute, I know Bishop Carroll will rise to the occasion if bumped up to 6A.
Hines – along with the other 82 percent of KSHSAA schools – cannot steal Carroll’s competitive edge.
They should rather aim to emulate it.