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An Alabama legislator recently filed a bill that would split public and private schools in state championship athletic competitions.
Right now, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) is separated into seven divisions based on school size regardless of their status as private or public. This means that private schools and public schools are competing against each other, even though they aren’t necessarily competing on a level playing field.
Since about 87% of private schools in the U.S. have fewer than 300 students, Alabama private schools are required to multiply their student population by 1.35 in order to determine their division. That’s because parents and coaches from public schools have expressed concern over the “private school advantage.”
Because of more generous funding, many private schools are fortunate enough to have superior facilities and more in-depth athletic programs. They also attract high-performing student-athletes by offering opportunities for athletic scholarships.
“This bill would require the Alabama High School Athletic Association to adopt a rule to allow its public school members to compete only against each other for state championships, and its nonpublic school members to compete only against each other for state championships,” said Rep. Ritchie Whorton, who proposed the bill.
According to the bill, private and public schools would still compete against each other during the regular season; this law would only affect the postseason.
Critics of the bill include two head coaches from different local schools. Neither of the coaches believe the change is necessary.
“First of all, I don’t see a need for it. The system in place is working very well,” said St. Paul’s coach, Steve Mask.
Davidson’s coach, Fred Riley, agreed, saying, “Where do you stop? They decide now that private and public schools are unfair, next they’ll say we’ll eliminate the city schools because they have more money than the county schools system.”
According to Mask, a school’s type doesn’t determine a win. He cited this year’s state championships in football, in which no private schools won.
“They were all public schools. You never know who’s going to win one and who’s not going to win one,” he said.
In the end, some people may argue that school sports are just a great way for kids to learn, grow, and stay healthy. Studies show that adolescents who play sports are eight times more likely to be physically active at age 24 when compared to adolescents who do not play sports.
Because of the clear benefits teens receive from playing team sports, does it really matter if you win or lose? But according to many die-hard Alabama football fans, the answer is clearly yes.