Public vs Private: The masses have weighed in on Coldwater and DeSales, and the winner is…


Columbus DeSales or Coldwater? Which feat is more impressive?

Few topics in Ohio get sports fans riled up as much as the “Public
versus Private” debate. This is a perfect example. Two weeks ago when I
asked what was more impressive – Coldwater’s three regional final berths (and one title) or Columbus DeSales’ four regional titles – I was sure I’d get a good response. I should have anticipated an avalanche, because that’s what I got.

Few topics in Ohio get sports fans riled up as much as the “Public versus Private” debate. This is a perfect example. Two weeks ago when I asked what was more impressive – Coldwater’s three regional final berths (and one title) or Columbus DeSales’ four regional titles – I was sure I’d get a good response. I should have anticipated an avalanche, because that’s what I got.

Over 100 members voiced their opinions and the following responses are some of the more poignant ones – for better and worse – that I received. It should be noted that not all responses were from Ohio. JJ members from California, Michigan, Nevada, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina weighed in as did the representative for the non-public schools on the Indiana High School Athletic Association Board of Directors (and you might be surprised by his thoughts).

One thing that was evident from the responses is that Ohioans LOVE their public schools. Over 85-percent of the emails were in favor of Coldwater. 

No matter what side of the fence/argument you’re on, though, the following is an entertaining read (and a long one). Nearly half the emails I received are reproduced below. If it takes you a couple visits to get through the whole list, by all means make multiple trips. Trust me, you don’t want to miss what your fellow members have to say.

As an example, one defender of DeSales said private school students and athletes are, “usually smarter and more disciplined. Not to mention, they are more focused.” He also added that, “the public school kids and parents don’t think about college as much or about athletics that much but when you are paying for that education, the parent is going to be more concerned with their child’s academics and athletics.” Another nugget? He said as a college coach at the NCAA Division II level he was “told to recruit private school kids over public school kids because we wouldn’t have to worry about those kids and their grades. With the public school school kids, grades was always a concern.”

Yeah, he said “was.”

One defender of public schools said, “Private schools are NOT religiously founded. They are set up solely to have winning sports teams and not be forced to play by the same rules public schools do in regards to recruiting for sports and certainly not academics!! Columbus Africentric has a 78-percent graduation rate?!?! I can’t imagine a public school with that graduation rate!”

Most of us know Africentric IS a public school.

Like I said, this is an interesting read and it does carry a lot of merit and worth. There is however some humor mixed in.

And a surprise ending…Enjoy.

(click on the numbers/jumps below to access the emails)



Coldwater’s feats are more impressive.
  They focus their energies as a family and support each other in that way as well. They play in a smaller venue, less media coverage etc., and do it for all the right reasons to play amateur sports.  They have the same distractions as other schools with the Internet etc., and this makes it even more important to stay so much more focused to achieve their success – because they are so small and as a result they have to get the maximum out of the limited talent they have. That focus, achieving it and then maintaining it, is what makes their accomplishments so special.

Coldwater because of what it is,
limited school district that cannot draw from
1,000’s of students

Eric, although the two feats are both impressive,
I have always been a believer that consistent high quality athletics in a small town setting is the more impressive feat. No one wants to hear my complaints about my perception of parochial schools ( particularly those in the smaller school divisions) having an advantage over their public school counterparts. Nonetheless my opinion remains unchanged. Even taking into account that Coldwater generally plays smaller schools, I would suggest their feat stands clear simply because of the limited number of athletes available to the program. While I would take nothing away from DeSales accomplishments, I suspect if they were playing for championships against only parochial schools their success rate might be smaller.

What a tough question?  Although I am principal of a parochial high school
(formerly coached basketball and football), I would have to say that I am more impressed with what Coldwater has accomplished (at least athletically), especially since their success seems to be across the board, not just in one sport.  I believe that is more difficult for a small public school than a parochial school for a variety of reasons.  That says a lot about the community.  That kind of success does not come without tremendous parent and community support and incredible leadership from the school staff.  And that support begins while the students are young and goes beyond the athletic fields. 
I am a ’65 graduate of Massillon Washington (and proud of it).  Next year I will begin my 40th year in parochial education as principal of Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I represent all the non-public schools on the Indiana High School Athletic Association Board of Directors.
I have listened to all the arguments about parochial vs. public both in Ohio and in
Indiana.  What I have seen is that the same factors lead to success in both systems. I am not surprised when DeSales is successful.  I am not surprised when Coldwater is successful.  That tells me that in both places there are strong youth programs, strong parental support, strong community support, strong educational and athletic leadership in the schools, and shared values.  Congratulations to both schools – they are obviously doing things the right way!

Coldwater, no question.
Smaller talent pool, tougher competition, especially in football.  Since the state football tourney began, teams currently in the MAC have won 25 state titles.  Most D1 teams wouldn’t get through that football conference without at least 2 losses. Competition makes you stronger.

Coldwater is more impressive because
of the smaller district from which they have to draw athletes. If DeSales had a district boundary you never would hear of them!

By far, Coldwater’s accomplishments are more impressive.
Not only do they do it with the kids from their own community, they don’t jumble their numbers of students to remain or change divisions. You can call it recruiting, you can accuse them of cutting band members, or you can say they give out scholarships to gifted athletes….anyway you look at it, the private schools have a distinct advantage over public/community based schools,  and for Coldwater to put a string together like they have, with no outside students and no fudging numbers, I’d say makes them much more successful.

I think it is more impressive for a public school
and a smaller school to do this. Too many private schools have an advantage. They draw students from a wide area, and I also think….they recruit kids…..that’s my opinion. I know for a fact in my area that it happens. There are schools in my area (Eastern Ohio) where kids go to private schools and are from a different state not to mention other counties. So any time a public school does what coldwater did… is most impressive to me……

Soccer??? The Midwest Athletic Conference does not call
soccer a sport. So the argument should be the three sports that are common to Coldwater and DeSales, which is football, basketball, and baseball. Also, DeSales, probably recruits like other private institutions.

I’m a little bias, but I’ll give my take.
Being from Greenville, we have the opportunity to play Coldwater in a lot of sports.  Being in close proximity I know and admire the coaches and parents of these kids!  The traditions and values of the families in that region have a lot to do with their kid’s success on and off the field, I will always be a fan!  Not turning this into politics or anything against the OHSAA, I’m just not a big fan of any private school or their programs!


Tough to argue the success of either school this year.
I’d argue Coldwater is more remarkable because of the greater number of crossover/multi sport athletes and the fact that they are drawn from a much smaller pool. Further consider that the aggregate four-year records of Coldwater in baseball and football are nearly ridiculous. The football team has gone 52-3 (95%)? with two state titles in addition to this year’s regional game. (Must mention that the Alter-Coldwater ’07 regional final was the most dramatic high school game I’d ever seen.) The baseball team? Has won 92 and lost 22 (81%) including a repeat state trip this year, the 18th visit to Columbus for the school. This year’s seniors have had a run that compares favorably with Hoying/Hartings era St Henry’s teams. On the public/parochial scale, Coldwater vs DeSales, The contrast is not as stark as may  appear. While Coldwater is indeed public one could reasonably argue that it has a higher percentage of Catholic students than a number of city parochial schools.

This is an easy one, really.
Coldwater is more impressive simply because they have to pull talent from a much smaller pool.  The only way to come close to DeSales’ talent pool would be for Coldwater to have the ability to mine their area for talent.  Recruiting from the likes of Marion Local, and St. Henry could even the pool, given the success of these small rural programs, but would still be a smaller pool to draw from than DeSales has in the Columbus area.

Another advantage of the smaller Coldwater is that their athletes all know each other, each other’s families, strengths, weaknesses, dedication, and quirks, and have since the time they were born.  These kids played together before they were old enough to play organized sports.  In many cases, they learned who their “go-to-guy” was on the playground long before the high school team was assembled. Teamwork is easier to develop when you already know everything about your teammates.

The winner is Coldwater. Easily.
They don’t have the talent pool of DeSales in terms of total numbers or area from which to draw athletes. They don’t have the ability to legally “recruit” talent as parochials can do. I know the parochial school defenders don’t want to hear it, but there’s an inherent advantage in being able to select talent, especially when your “district” is so large. Yes, parochial schools tend to develop that talent well and get kids to buy into the work ethic needed to become championship caliber teams.

But public districts, for the most part, have to endure lack of talent cycles that simply don’t exist as often or as deeply for parochial schools. That means to achieve what Coldwater has done you not only need some exceptional athletes, but consistent coaching from K-12 to maintain that type of excellence for an extended period of time. Kudos to both Coldwater and DeSales for their overall excellence — but this battle goes to Coldwater.

No question in my mind
– the private schools can do all the recruiting they want, including paying tuition of athletes who attend their schools.  I have long been of the opinion that they should only be allowed to compete against other private schools, as they have a distinct advantage over public schools that draw students from their immediate district and adjacent districts. 

The thing that makes Coldwater so impressive is the stability of the community – a strong German-Catholic population of intact families (note how many of their athletes have two parents of the same name as the children).  They are hard-working farmers and rural families who value their children, support them in academics and athletics.  That is the key to their success.

Coldwater…Hands down.
The public schools only have the students in their district to work with,  while the private get from everywhere they can. You get a private school with 2-3 kids good at a certain sport and then this kid thinks he’s good, transfers in and then that leads to more transfers. That’s why private schools continue to win. Wins create more wins. Everyone one wants to be on a winning program. The public school doesn’t have that option. It’s play with what you have and win or lose. Case closed.

I happen to believe that private schools recruit
in a gentle sort of way…this recruiting is not limited to sports but does allow the private school regardless of size to draw from a larger area…this is not to say that it doesn’t occur in the public arena but certainly is not to the extent of the private school. I truly believe that the OHSAA should have two divisions for all private schools (large and small division)…talk about an uproar but things would be on an more level playing field…

Ps…for what’s it worth…I am a strong believer in private schools and the educational and athletic values they bring…I just think they should play in their own division

Coldwater wins, they play in the MAC.
It is by far the toughest conference in the state. If you can survive that each year and move on, you really are good.

I don’t have the numbers but Coldwater
might have more Catholics in their school
than DeSales.

Coldwater because I am from Mercer County
Ohio and the Midwest Athletic Conference founded in the 70’s has a legacy of outstanding athletics and scholarship in boys and girls sports.


Coldwater. They can’t recruit
and I doubt if they get many open enrollers. Just look
at a map, St Henry is seven miles away to the south, Marion Local is eight miles to the southeast, New Bremen and St. Marys  to the east, Celina and Parkway to the north and northwest. The whole area oozes with talent. Each town has pride and their own list of state championships

I am sure that your article will get many responses
as this debate comes up so often. Especially when it comes to tournament time. First a bit of my background. I am a Coldwater Native, a Catholic and have now experienced big school environment as I now live in Pickerington. My Children will attend Pickerington Central where my son will be a sophomore this fall and my daughter entering 7th grade. Due to my roots, I have a strong allegiance to Coldwater. Once it is in your blood, it doesn’t go away. 

Now on to the topic. I feel that accomplishments of the nature you describe for any school is impressive. The big school has the advantage in terms of drawing athletes for individual sports from a bigger pool. You are more likely to find more specialists in terms of focusing on one sport, which may give you that edge for a deep tournament run. I give the edge to Coldwater here as you have a much smaller pool of boys to find these impact players. The number of Two Sport athletes is a higher ratio at Coldwater and three sport athletes is even more impressive.  Edge to Coldwater. 

As noted, DeSales is private and can draw from a larger population for students. (I am not going into the Recruiting aspect as I have no idea.) A schools reputation for Academic and Athletic achievement will be the best advertisement and DeSales has accomplished that over these many years.  So if you look at ratios of accomplishments to population, Edge Coldwater. 

Both schools have a proud heritage and support from their communities.  However, the Profile of the Community is drastically different.  When you drive through Coldwater, you have no doubt as to whom they support and how proud they are of their teams, win or lose.  Everything from yard signs, to window stickers to banners on the lampposts on Main Street to most of the attire of the community, Cavalier Pride is evident. 

I give the edge to Coldwater’s run as being more impressive.  Hats off to DeSales. A fine school with rich tradition.  However, when the Stallions win it doesn’t make you scratch your head and say, ‘How did they do so much with so little.’ 

Last thought, when my wife and I chose to live in Pickerington 17 years ago, we thought it had a small town feel.  As part of the Central Football program, we have seen much the same spirit and pride which made us feel a part of the community.  Not quite to the extent of Coldwater, but that is a tough act to follow.

Anyway you look at it, not being bound to a district
is an advantage that private schools have over most public schools.  DeSales is a fine example, but only one of many private schools who have made a name for themselves over the years and happen to be in a good location to reach, or be reached by the athletes.

Coldwater is more impressive.
Considering it comes from a very rural area, which continues to produce excellent sports from a population that is dwarfed by Columbus.  It is not just Coldwater however, they just happen to be the largest school in a very powerful league (MAC), which might be the best small school league not just in Ohio, but in the entire United States. Columbus DeSales on the other hand, with last names such as Kellogg, and Griffin, receives the cream of the athletic crop. Famous names that have left the Mercer county area, such as Bobby Hoying are now residing in Dublin OH, which would be in the DeSales territory. Still year in and year out Coldwater, St. Henry, and Marion Local (all high schools in the same general location) produce some of the best high school sports in the nation. Just my opinion.

First of all, let me start off by saying that I am not a regular on this forum.
  I mainly follow college sports and more specifically Michigan athletics. However, I am also a huge fan of the College of Wooster and I check in here from time to time to see if I can find any info on potential recruits for the Scots. I saw your topic on the front page and, for some reason, I felt compelled to respond.

All in all, I am NOT a fan of any private high schools in the state of Ohio because of the unfair advantage I feel they have over most public schools in recruiting. So, I guess that makes it pretty obvious as to which school I choose as having the more impressive run.

Not only is DeSales in an urban setting in Columbus, but they also have the advantage of recruiting all over that urban setting. I am from Wooster and we have several rural schools in the surrounding Wayne Co. area similar to Coldwater. Just from a numbers perspective alone makes what Coldwater has done in Football, Basketball and Baseball even more impressive especially when you take into account that DeSales has more boys enrolled that Coldwater has total students!

I was surprised to see that DeSales had almost as many kids that played on 2 of the sports, but they also had 4 teams in the discussion so the percentage isn’t as high as Coldwater’s 12 kids playing on at least 2 teams and an even more impressive 4 kids playing on all 3 regional qualifying teams!

I guess, ultimately what it boils down to for me is that I will always be more impressed by any run a public school makes with kids that, for the most part, grew up in that community, over a private school that basically has the pick of the litter in whatever sport they want to excel in. I’ve always been in favor of moving all of the private schools into their own division and let the public schools battle it out for state titles among themselves! But I doubt that will ever happen, so I am left to root for any public school going up against any private school come state tourney time…

Thanks for the topic of discussion. Hope my response wasn’t too bitter.  😉  I will look forward to seeing some of the other responses.


I would always side with a public school
being a better story, if DeSales recruits they should be able to maintain good players year in and year out

Both are very impressive.
To just get there is hard enough let alone 3 or 4 times in one school year. I would have to say Coldwater is more impressive to me. First they have a special group of athletes where 4 of these kids can play 3 different sports and can excel in all the sports to get them where they are. Second the bonding that these kids have had growing up and playing ball together and getting along with each other is a rare feat these days.

For me it is a close question but in the end I give the nod to
Coldwater.  While I am not one that believes that catholic schools recruit (in fact I am sure that they do not) there is still an ability on the part of potential students to choose between their local public school and a private school in their area.  If that private school has a reputation for being competitive in a particular sport (like DeSales) then a potential student in that area can choose to go to that school.

Coldwater, on the other hand, is a rural public school that can only work with those students that live within its boundaries.  Therefore, unless there is s genetic component in the area that produces a plethora of exceptional athletes, the public school (Coldwater) has to develop a program that nurtures the athletes within its boundaries.  The private school (DeSales) also has to have a good program but it also has to attract students from the community that could go to public school for free.  As any college coach or pro coach will tell you, it is always easier to win with better athletes.  Therefore, a school like DeSales that consistently draws the better athlete has the better chance to win and I think it is a more remarkable feat for the public school to be a consistent top performer given that it will have less consistent athletic ability.

Coming from a rural area myself,
Coldwater’s accomplishments competing in Regional/State tournaments is far more compelling than a DeSales that can advertise/recruit for all the stars. It can be very frustrating for a small D4 school (in my case) running into multiple private schools during tournament time but just like the opponents of the BCS ponder “what is the solution?”  That is the million-dollar question.

Both are impressive but Coldwater
takes the edge because DeSales can recruit/cherry pick kids from anywhere in Columbus or the surrounding metro area. Coldwater is a public school in a small town surrounded by many other small towns that are sports hotbeds, e.g. St. Henry, Ft. Recovery, Anna, etc. Believe me; nobody is going to transfer from one town to the other because of the hot rivalry between all these small towns.

I was born in Ft. Recovery and spent my Fifties high school years in Greenville . . .20 miles south of the subject area of Mercer County schools that I mentioned. I also spent the first ten years out of college (Sixties) in Upper Arlington so I’m well aware of the Columbus area football rivalries as well

That’s an easy call.
Coldwater’s record is much more impressive.  I’m originally from Mercer County, which contains such football powerhouses as Coldwater, St. Henry, Maria Stein and Delphos St. John is right up the road as well. In short, Coldwater doesn’t recruit or have kids move into their school district to play for the Cavaliers.  Likely, every kid in Mercer County lives in a public school district that has good football already. DeSales, on the other hand, has a  huge area to pick (i.e., recruit) from. It’s silly to think they don’t  recruit….or at least a quality player decides to go there because of their  record of success and ability to get good players into D1 colleges.

Without argument the public streak is tougher.
  Public schools basically coach what they get.  Private schools recruit legally – if they are a good program with support – they get what they need.  That being said a public school in an area with no competition from a parochial in the area to draw kids away has a better chance at a dynasty than those public in direct competition with the parochials both in games and retaining their own kids.

There are going to be cycles in any community.  Any public who wins big over an extended period of time has accomplished a lot. I have coached in Ohio High Schools for almost 40 years – the last 30  in an urban area – in a city league with public and parochial teams. The “playing field is not level” – recruiting and large disparity in size of staffs/money put into program by the schools are the difference. It can be done by the publics – but not often – and especially hard in an area shared by both.

Coldwater hands down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
I have no ties to Coldwater , my daughter plays high school ball for Clyde

Sorry, nothing a private school does will ever impress me.
Living around Delphos, Oh. all my life, I’ve seen how the “system” works. In the early 80’s, before “open enrollment,” I saw how Delphos St. Johns was allowed to cheat: You need a point guard to get Kortakrax the ball?? Go to Ottawa and recruit (steal) their point guard to get him the ball. There is NO WAY, over the course of a summer, that he all of a sudden “found religion” and “decided” to go to St. Johns… And I’ll bet he didn’t pay the tuition either!

It continues today… Private schools are NOT religiously founded. They are set up solely to have winning sports teams and not be forced to play by the same rules Public schools do in regards to recruiting for sports and certainly not academics!! Columbus Africentric has a 78% graduation rate?!?! I can’t imagine a public school with that graduation rate! Every State legislator would be standing on their front steps SCREAMING about all that was wrong with “public school education.” Give me a break!

And after attending the Girls State Basketball tournament this year, I’m more convinced than ever that the OHSAA had better put a stop to this or they are going to KILL High School Sports. The OHSAA had to notice the 10 or 12 tickets they sold to those cheating schools as opposed to the public schools. The Public School COMMUNITIES followed their schools and bought thousands of tickets.

I would root for Coldwater or ANY public school in any endeavor over the cheaters that attend private schools.


Thank you for this controversial topic
that has been a discussion at many a tables across this state as well as a few others.  Personally, I am not a fan of the private sector.  With the offer of a “scholarship” to a high school student is simply unacceptable.  This opens the door for recruiting and other actions that can lead to trouble.  Of course you can build a team that can literally pound colleges, but the thought of this sort of behavior sickens me.  However, if a private school that is sincere and honest (especially when using a religious platform) then I hope that they are successful.  For the most, this is not the case.  I am on the side of public schools and will continue to be.

Definitely Coldwater.
Anyone from Columbus can go to DeSales (not saying they recruit), but their teams can change dramatically from year to year.  Coldwater uses the same kids from sport to sport and the younger siblings need to step up after the older ones graduate.


I think DeSales run is more impressive due
to the fact that they tend to play tougher schedules in all sports. There are people that will say that DeSales benefits from having a large area to draw students from, and that they recruit, well in just about every sport there is just as much if not more and better talent at other schools that are within its borders.

I went to a private school
(Zanesville Rosecrans) and we didn’t get any special treatment or athletes. I think that the hardest thing is success at a private school because you have to pay to go there. Here is the difference, the private school kids are usually smarter and more disciplined. Not to mention, they are more focused. The public school kids and parents don’t think about college as much or about athletics that much but when you are paying for that education, the parent is going to be more concerned with their child’s academics and athletics. I also was a college coach at the D2 level and I was told to recruit private school kids over public school kids because we wouldn’t have to worry about those kids and their grades. With the public school school kids, grades was always a concern. The better athletes are at the private schools, I believe but that doesn’t equal state titles.. Smart kids doing the right things, equals championships.

DeSales, because it is a larger school
and that seems to make it harder to get to the finals in numerous sports.  Coldwater’s run is as much as DeSales but four seems a little better than three

Each school plays it’s sports in a division of like-sized schools, so how many boys attend the school, urban/rural settings, etc., are non-issues.
Smaller schools, such as Coldwater, can certainly be more greatly impacted by a handful of great athletes, as they are more likely to be able to dominate (within their division) at various sports, but that is really not the point either. Coldwater went to THREE regional finals, winning one. DeSales went to FOUR regional finals and won them all. Congratulations to Coldwater for a fantastic accomplishment, but there really is no question as to which school has had the more noteworthy year. A greater number of regional finals made, four Final Four appearances as opposed to one Final Four appearance, all done at a higher level of competition. It is really a no-brainer of an “argument.” DeSales wins handily.


This has the makings of an interesting story, but I don’t think you’re penetrating the issue enough. Both of these schools not only have good programs today, but they both have a legacy of excellent teaching, coaching and success. It’s not the water they drink and it’s not because of their demographics; so what is it? My bet there is a culture ingrained at these institutions; one that would require some effort to expose.

That – could be a great article. Heroic efforts that create programs like these should be celebrated, not held up for shallow criticisms. Be a valuable beacon that highlights the background of excellent programs. Forget this poll and tell us more.

Both are very rich in tradition and should be complimented.
  Impressively better, couldn’t say? DeSales plays bigger teams hence the larger school.  Coldwater is always consistent. I do know for a fact you opened the old recruiting can of worms you may regret. Could be a good topic, but many will blow it way out of hand.


The Versailles girls. That’s right. After posting this column one reader made the point that Versailles’ girls programs this year won three regional titles (volleyball, basketball and track) and also finished third at the state cross country meet. The Tigers nearly won the D-III state track title with 62 points (a number that would have won the championship in any year between 1985-2007).

And yeah, they are a member of the MAC.

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