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November 27, 2012

GASKINS: Football tourney is a joke

IHSAA needs to put private schools in separate classes.

The IHSAA football finals last week offered some local rooting interests. Mid-Indiana Conference champion Hamilton Heights played in the Class 3A game, and former Maconaquah coach Bart Curtis had his Mishawaka squad in the Class 4A game.

Yet, I couldn’t have cared less about the state finals. I didn’t watch a single second of any of the games. There were plenty of other sporting options on TV, but even if the state finals had been the only sporting event on TV, I would have found something else to watch.

Quite simply, I’m fed up with watching parochial schools dominate the state finals — and I’m fed up with the IHSAA’s apparent indifference toward the problem.

To recap: Parochial schools won four of the five titles. Lafayette Central Catholic beat Indianapolis Scecina in an all-parochial Class A final. Fort Wayne Bishop Luers beat Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter in an all-parochial 2A final. Indianapolis Bishop Chatard beat Hamilton Heights in the 3A game. And Indianapolis Cathedral beat Mishawaka in the 4A game.

(The Class 5A game featured a pair of public schools — but that was the only possible outcome. The biggest class was once again made up entirely of public schools in 2012. Lawrence Central beat Fort Wayne Snider for its first state title.)

The parochial party in the lower four classes was simply business as usual. LCC and Luers both won their fourth straight titles, and Chatard and Cathedral both made it three straight titles.

All-time, Chatard has 12 state titles, Luers has 11, Cathedral has 10 and LCC has six. You have to feel for Indianapolis Roncalli, which has been stuck on eight since 2004 while their parochial rivals have stacked their trophy cases with new hardware.

Why has the IHSAA allowed the state tournament to become a one-sided joke? If basketball and baseball needed to go to classes 15 years ago to cut down on big schools’ dominance, then football needs a drastic change, too — to separate classes for parochial and other private schools.

Of course, private school supporters will say their kids just work harder or their school is simply more committed to winning. In reality, it’s clear to see that private schools have advantages over their public counterparts, especially in football where roster sizes are so big. Private schools draw kids from a wider geographic area, they are located in large population centers, they control their enrollments and they grant and deny admission as they see fit. The latter is a huge advantage.

There is at least a small change coming next year after the IHSAA added a “Tournament Success Factor” to football and other team sports that have class tournaments. Basically, a team earns points for tournament success — one point for winning a sectional title, two for winning a regional, three for a semistate and four for a state. If that team earns six points over a two-year span, it will move up a class for the following two years. Thus, LCC, Scecina, Luers, Chatard and Cathedral all will move up a class in football for 2013 and 2014.

This is better than nothing, especially in some other sports, but akin to putting a Band-Aid on a knife wound for football. I’ll go ahead and predict parochial schools still will dominate the state finals in 2013 and 2014. Look for LCC, Scecina, Andrean or Ritter to rule 2A. (The 2A final four this year featured four parochials.) Look for Luers to emerge as the team to beat in 3A. Look for Chatard to replace Cathedral as the 4A power. And, who knows? Cathedral might just make some noise in 5A.

If parochial schools swept all five titles in 2013, maybe we’d get the change we needed — separate classes for private schools.

Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune’s sports editor. He may be reached at bryan.gaskins@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8567.

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