OGBR: The age-old Public vs. Private debate

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Tom Jenkins’ Ohio Girls Basketball Report

Revered girls basketball scout and guru Tom Jenkins checks in with his feature column today and takes a look at the age-old Public vs. Private debate as it applies to Ohio high school girls basketball.


There are approximately 120 private schools in the total 800 Ohio high schools that field girls’ high school basketball programs. Thus, private schools represent roughly 15 percent of the 800 high schools in Ohio.

Over the last four years in the OHSAA state tournament, there have been 64 teams competing. (Four divisions x four teams per year x four years = 64 teams). Of these 64 Final Four teams 21 have been from private schools which is 32.8 percent of all teams competing in the State Final Fours since 2005.  

Each of the last 4 years is broken down as follows: 

Ø 2008:  37.5 percent (6-of-16) of the final 16 teams (four teams from each of the four divisions) were private schools.  

Ø 2007: 31.25 percent (5-of-16) of the final 16 teams (four teams from each of the four divisions) were private schools.  

Ø 2006: 18.75 percent of the final 16 teams were private schools (3-of-16 in the State Final Four were private schools).  

Ø 2005: 43.75 percent of the 16 teams in the Final Four were private schools (7-of- 16 teams). 

Like our previous article discussing which region plays the best high school basketball, we conducted a ‘rough’ yet factual study based on championships. 

Our starting point in the study – like our previous study we conducted – starts 21 years ago in 1988, which is the year OHSAA went to our current Division system (Division s I-IV).  

We used the four divisions determined by the OHSAA and its enrollment figures of each year. From 1988 through 2008 there have been 84 state champions crowned: 

21 years x four divisions per year = 84 state champions 

Of these 84 state champions, 56 (66.67 percent) have been public schools and 28 have been private schools (33.33 percent).  

In breaking this time period down into two parts, the first 11 years (1988-1998) and the last 10 years (1999-2008) we discovered the following: 

Ø 1988 – 1998: There have been 44 state champions crowned of which 36 (81.8 percent) were public schools and eight (18.2 percent) were private schools.

Ø
 
1999 – 2008: There have been 40 state champions crowned of which 20 (50 percent) were public schools and 20 (50 percent) were private schools. 

We then looked at each division during these 21 years as a whole and then further broke down this period of time into two parts, the first 11 years (1988-1998) and the last 10 years (1999-2008). The tendencies and trends were both constant in some divisions and alarming in others.  

Division I (199 high schools) 

Ø 1988 – 2008: 15 public school state champions and six private school state champions 

Ø 1988 – 1998: 10 public school state champions and one private school state champions 

Ø 1999 – 2008: Five public school state champions and five private school state champions 

Ø Tendency swing = 91 percent public school to 50 percent public school state champions over the last 10 years 

Ø Point Total (one for each state championship over the last 21 years and two for each state championship over the last 10 years) 

Public Schools = 25 points / Private Schools = 16 points 

Ø Best Quality Basketball in Division I = Public Schools 

Division II (200 high schools)

Ø 1988 – 2008: 10 public school state champions and 11 private school state champions 

Ø 1988 – 1998: Six public school state champions and five private school state champions 

Ø 1999 – 2008: Four public school state champions and six private school state champions 

Ø Tendency swing = 55 percent public school to 40 percent public school state champions over the last 10 years 

Ø Point Total (one for each state championship over the last 21 years and two for each state championship over the last 10 years) 

Public Schools = 18 points / Private Schools = 23 points 

Ø Best Quality Basketball in Division II = Too Close to Call 

Division III (200 high schools) 

Ø 1988 – 2008: 12 public school state champions and nine private school state champions 

Ø 1988 – 1998: 10 public school state champions and one private school state champions 

Ø 1999 – 2008: Two public school state champions and eight private school state champions 

Ø Tendency swing = 91 percent public school to 20 percent public school state champions over the last 10 years 

Ø Point Total (one for each state championship over the last 21 years and two for each state championship over the last 10 years) 

Public Schools = 16 points / Private Schools = 25 points 

Ø Best Quality Basketball in Division III = Private Schools 

Division IV (201 high schools) 

Ø 1988 – 2008: 19 public school state champions and two private school state champions 

Ø 1988 – 1998: 10 public school state champions and one private school state champions 

Ø 1999 – 2008: Nine public school state champions and one private school state champions 

Ø Tendency swing = 91 percent public school to 90 percent public school state champions over the last 10 years 

Ø Point Total (two for each state championship over the last 21 years and two for each state championship over the last 10 years) 

Public Schools = 37 points / Private Schools = Four points 

Ø Best Quality Basketball in Division IV = Public Schools 

While there have been swings from public to private schools over the last 10 years in D-I, the most glaring has been in D-III where private schools have garnered a 70 percent increase in state championships. Division II has been reasonably consistent over the last 10 years where public schools have only seen a 15 percent decrease in state championships. The most dominating constant is in Division IV where public schools have remained from 1988-1998 to 1999-2008 state champions 90 percent of the time. 

In every public school with a successful girls basketball program there is an identified elementary and middle school “feeder” program. The administration has hired a quality coach, believe girls basketball is a legit revenue producing opportunity, have developed its program as a community based program and support the girls program accordingly.  

However, on the converse side there are many factors causing some of the trends towards private schools…and no, it is just not “recruiting” by the private schools.  

The following is a partial list of bullet points that has caused this trend with no one of these factors having more weight than any of the others.

  • Open enrollment in some public school systems eliminating middle school “feeder” programs;
  • Federal voucher programs coupled with the belief, real or perceived, concerning the quality of academics of private over public schools;
  • Strength of Catholic Youth Organization programs versus in some cases the total elimination of public middle school athletics;
  • “Pay-to-Play” public school athletics and the failure to pass school levies;
  • New schools splitting public school districts decreasing enrollment numbers but staying at the same divisional level;
  • Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) of public school teachers union negatively affecting the hiring of quality coaches;
  • The hiring policies outside of the “CBA” of some public school systems coupled with the diminished pool of quality young basketball coaches in the teaching profession;
  • Failure of OHSAA to implement an enrollment “multiplier” system regarding divisional breakdowns to offset private school advantages;
  • Understanding by some private school administrators of the need for “name recognition” for general enrollment purposes and support of their girls basketball program as a revenue generating opportunity;  

As always we welcome your feedback and as well, if you have a different perspective on this trend over the last 10 years or have factors causing this trend to add to the above list, we would love to hear from you. 

Contact us at staff@jjhuddle.com or Ohgbm@aol.com  

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Tom Jenkins is the Executive Director of Ohio Girls Basketball Report (OGBR) a scouting service working for 202 colleges across the United States. Over the last six years OGBR has been voted by NCAA D-I head coaches as the No. 1 single-state scouting service in America.

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