Leveling The Playing Field: IHSAA Contemplates Change To Address Dominance In Athletic Arena

By Jeff Neumeyer

November 24, 2010 Updated Nov 24, 2010 at 11:40 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- With Indiana preparing to crown five new champions in high school football this weekend, a governing body is ready to consider changes to cut down on the dominance of private schools in all of the state’s class sports.

That’s according to a top official from the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

The IHSAA has heard complaints for years from fans of public school teams about how private schools have an unfair advantage, particularly in the five-class football tourney.

Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers, competing this weekend for titles in 4A and 2A respectively, already own 11 championships between them.

Seven percent of the teams participating in the tourney are from private schools, but over the last ten years, 40 percent of the state finalists have hailed from private institutions.

This year, six of ten finalists are Catholic schools.

Critics argue those private schools benefit from the fact they can, and often do, recruit top-flight athletes.

Leaders say an idea the IHSAA could vote on in January, would stipulate a team that wins two consecutive titles is moved up one level for at least the next two-year cycle.

Bobby Cox/IHSAA Asst. Commissioner: " If the theory is, the bigger the school the better the team, then we're giving them the opportunity to expand their excellence and play a school that's bigger than them. This type of a proposal, in my mind, has more merit and more validity than other plans."

Cox is referring to other proposals for change, some of which sought to force a number of private schools to compete in a class above their prescribed enrollment level.

Cox says that solution would hurt private schools that are already struggling to perform well in the athletic arena.

The proposal he supports would impact private and public schools the same: that is, any school that dominates on a regular basis.

Again, the change has not been made, but Cox believes it could come to a vote early next year.

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