Proposal would divide public and private schools

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It’s been a hot topic in Illinois for years.

Should state tournaments in high school sports be separated into separate divisions for public (boundary) and private (non-boundary) schools?

If West Suburban Conference officials have their way, the issue will move to the next level with Illinois High School Association member schools being called upon to vote on a proposed bylaw change that would separate such competition.

Addison Trail principal and league president Adam Cibulka confirmed earlier this week in a published report in a Quad Cities newspaper that league officials had voted unanimously in favor of submitting such a proposal.

He would not release details but acknowledged it would repeal the 1.65 multiplier system used for the past decade by the IHSA to add to non-boundary school enrollments in an effort to “level the playing field.” It would also repeal the recently delayed “success factor” formula that would bump up in class successful private programs.

Do private schools, who can draw students from a larger geographic area, have an unfair advantage? This past school year, according to the report in the Argus-Dispatch, private school teams won 24, or 36 percent, of IHSA state titles.

“I have been on both sides,” Oswego Athletic Director Darren Howard said when The Beacon-News polled area administrators. “I was A.D. and coach at Immaculate Conception (a private school) and in publics at Fenton, and now, Oswego.

“There are a handful of privates that do not do things as they should, and they give all privates a bad name. On the other hand, there are publics that we have seen in just the last couple years who also do not do things the right way.”

He said he would be opposed to the proposal.

“The competitive side of me feels that if you are truly a champion, then you should be able to beat anyone,” he said.

The 14-team West Suburban, which is divided into two (Gold, Silver) divisions of seven schools, has members who are all in the top 93 (based on enrollment) schools in the state. Eight of them have enrollments of 2,500 or more.

Aurora Central Athletic Director Sean Bieterman is a graduate of WSC Silver member York (2,639 students).

“Anybody that ever worked at a private school would be dead set against (such a proposal),” he said. “The perception out there that private schools will do anything to win is ridiculous.

“(At York) We always prided ourselves on playing the best and I don’t think schools with 3,000 students should be backing down from anyone. I’m guessing this is football driven and this is a Mt. Carmel, St. Rita thing. These schools don’t want to play those two.”

Within hours of the report, IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman issued a statement, saying he would oppose separate divisions because he believes “both our membership and our State Series tournaments are stronger under their current unified format.”

Aurora Christian athletic director Dan Beebe also opposes a change and worries about “logistics for the state series for both public and private.”

He also worries the next step might be “total separation … I don’t believe either (side) understands the ramifications of separating the two.”

Bieterman, noting his school of 617 (multiplied to 1,018) is “not winning state championships every year. I’m already playing 3A schools in baseball (and other sports). What else do they expect us to do?

“Truth be told (separating the state competition) would bring us back to playing schools of the same enrollment.”

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