Have we seen enough?

Published 11:41 pm Friday, December 12, 2003

By Staff
This past Saturday Detroit Country Day was crowned the Class B girls basketball state champions.
This championship was their second in a row and the seventh year in a row that Country Day has been in the final game. They have won the Class B championship five out of the last seven years.
In Class B this year the final four teams were all private schools. The state champion the last 10 years in a row for Class B have all been private schools. In fact, the runner-up in Class B the last eight out of 10 seasons has come from private schools.
Are we putting athletes from our public schools in a fair arena versus private schools?
It appears that there is a skewed proportion of private schools winning state championships in the Class B, C and D divisions.
In Class D girls' basketball, both finalists were private schools. During the past 10 years for Class D, private schools have been victorious eight times. One school, Portland St. Pat, has won six state titles.
This year, uncharacteristically, in Class C, there were two public schools in the final game. The title would have gone to Detroit DePorres, a private school, but near the end of the season, it was learned that the coach, and his two star daughters, did not have residence in the proper district and all three were not allowed to play in the tournament. In the Detroit Free Press all class power pool, DePorres was undefeated and ranked third up to that point. The other Clas C finalist, Inkster, an open enrollment public school, also had their coach suspended at the end of the regular season for illegal recruiting practices. This same coach had been suspended from a Class C private school three years previous.
Overall, there have been five Class C private schools winning state titles the past 10 seasons.
When you look at the small proportion of private schools in the state compared to public schools in basketball, it just is not educationally sound that private schools are winning a majority of the titles.
Yes, public schools have "school of choice," but most schools are restricted by territory, openings and transportation.
Some private schools draw from five county boundaries, some draw from the entire state, and even a select few have dormitories and draw from neighboring states and Canada.
Private schools do cost the attnedee more money, but schools like Country Day offer athletic scholarships deducting as much as 90 percent from the cost.
The bottom line is that we are not comparing apples to apples.
It is not fair that many private schools form AAU teams to attract area star players, and use the experience to convince these players to attend their school. It is also not fair that private school coaches convince area star players to transfer to their school between first and second semester, so they may reload the next year. State rules only stipulate that an athlete sit out one semester, so a girl basketball player sits out the spring, and starts up with her new team in the summer.
Boys' basketball follows the same trend. Class D has had nine state champions in the past 10 seasons, Class C seven and Class B five.
What is the answer to this problem?
The MHSAA needs to seriously take a hard look at changes to make state tournaments equitable.
Separating public and private schools into separate tournaments would be one possibility, but another easier solution would be for all private schools to bump up into Class A or Class B, depending on their enrollment. This would force the private schools to compete against public schools with larger enrollments.
Country Day, for example, would play in the Class A tourney, and we would have more apples playing apples, and past domination would cease. Portland St. Pat would play in Class B, and we would see the same results. Country Day and St. Pat would still be very competitive, bit isn't that the goal--fair competition?
The ultimate dream for any high school basketball player at the beginning of the season is a state championship. Reality for most public school athletes is that it will most likely stay a dream unless changes are made. Haven't we seen enough?
Steve Bender is a tennis and basketball coach at Buchanan High School. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.