Hot-Button Issue: Public Versus Private Debate Rages

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Hot-Button Issue: Public vs Private
It’s high school sports’ version of gun control, a hot-button debate if ever there was one. There’s no right answer, of course, no matter how passionately either side feels. Public v. Private doesn’t exactly pack the punch or significance of Roe v. Wade, but there’s plenty of passion surrounding the most polarizing issue in Ohio high school sports.


It’s high school sports’ version of gun control, a hot-button debate if ever there was one. There’s no right answer, of course, no matter how passionately either side feels.

Public v. Private doesn’t exactly pack the punch or significance of Roe v. Wade, but there’s plenty of passion surrounding the most polarizing issue in Ohio high school sports.

Ohio High magazine managing editor Eric Frantz took a stab at it in the current issue. He provided some solid numbers, making a case that maybe the private schools don’t have as much of an advantage as some think.

And perhaps he’s right. But color many of us skeptical. We’ll believe Mr. Frantz is right as soon as a public school reels off 20 consecutive state championships, the way Cincinnati St. Xavier’s swim team has. …

Or 12 consecutive state championships, the way Lakewood St. Edward’s wrestling team has. …

Or 10 consecutive state championships, the way Gates Mills Hawken’s girls swim team has. …

Or five consecutive state championships, the way Cleveland St. Ignatius’ football team did. And so on.

There are always exceptions. Pickerington’s girls basketball team had a pretty nice run back in the day, though some would say the Lady Tigers, uh, player procurement was a bit on the shady side. Berlin Hiland’s girls are in the middle of a spectacular run right now.

More often than not, though, it seems the year-in, year-out dominant teams are the ones who charge at the door before the first day of school. And those schools somehow always get the hardest-working kids (sarcasm intended).

There will always be inequity. But there’s got to be some sort of compromise, especially at the small-school level. Anyone at the Canton Field House on March 9 saw that.

Two schools having once-in-a-lifetime seasons – Pymatuning Valley and Malvern, which were a combined 47-1 heading into the regional final – lost to Cleveland-area private school powers, Villa Angela-St. Joseph and Bedford St. Peter Chanel, respectively.

“I don’t care what anyone says, they’re a Division II team,” Malvern coach Dennis Tucci said of D-IV Chanel, which sits in the middle of Cuyahoga County, home to half a million people. “It’s a city team with city players. I don’t have to apologize for (saying) that.”

Those are just recent examples. These types of things happen every year. It’s nearly an annual rite, for example, for Regina to win in the regional tournament by 30 or 40 points over a small-town public school team that was 24-0 prior to the game (that is, if the Royals aren’t knocked off by another Cleveland private school first).

Small public schools simply cannot compete with the inner-city private powerhouses. And thou ought not to have to.

Other states use an enrollment multiplier. That’s a lot of complex math, though. A simpler solution would be making private schools compete in the division of the school districts in which they reside.

Regina, would then be Division I. As would Chanel, VASJ, Walsh, Hoban and St. Vincent-St. Mary. Draw from Division I areas? Sit in Division I districts? Compete in Division I tournaments. Why it’s not this way is anyone’s guess.

Chanel coach Bernie Tarr, a public schooler in his playing days, recalled similar things even back when he played. But as a private school coach, he dismissed it.

“You’ve gotta play the game,” he said. “I don’t really get into all that.”

Nor should he. If the rules give you a 50-yard head start in a 100-yard race, why question the rules?

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