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The Level Playing Field

Written by: on Monday, October 13th, 2014. Follow KMac on Twitter.


Many posts have been made to this site regarding the “recruiting” issues; or the open enrollment question; and the right to quality education thoughts. They have been enlightening and entertaining for certain. I must be a true Libra, because I try to see both sides of the coin in the various posts and have refrained from adding my two cents. I would now like to add at least a cent worth.

As a much younger high school football fan in 1958 (age 17) this issue came to my attention directly with the opening of Bishop Egan Catholic all-boys high school in Tullytown, PA. In the first years of the school their major three sports of football, baseball, and basketball had stars; if not the TOP star in each sport, very prominent stars from my home town, then Morrisville. Morrisville was very competitive then in all sports (8-0-1 football in 1958), and I couldn’t help thinking what each of the Egan stars could have added to the hometown teams. I can name all three in mind, but it is of no further consequence here.

It became more of a question as Egan grew to a powerful football program under Dick Bedesam and others, winning PCL championship in 1963, 1966, 1967, 1969 & 1970 and adding on city titles in 1963 (tie), 1966, 1967, and 1969. After that the declining enrollment issues began and shrunk Egan dramatically causing a merger with all-girl Bishop Conwell in 1993, and the Conwell-Egan smaller school just escaping closure in modern times.

While a back-burner issue for me for the ensuing years as I enjoyed seeing the private schools play high school football as well as the publics’, it has again become a major issue in the state occasioned by the entry of District 12 to the PIAA in 2004, with the PCL entering in 2008. And in 2004 I attended the 2A and 4A state championship games and witnessed Pittsburgh Central Catholic for the first and only time so far in person. I am not the only person who has accorded that PCC team as one of the best ever to come out of the state. I was later informed by someone that they drew from about 17 different school districts.

As I mentioned above, I read all of the articles on this thread on the subject with an open mind and see pros and cons around the PIAA enforcing rules regarding transfers; the value and in some cases, safety, of private school education; the cost of choosing schools; and the, “buck up and work as hard as the good schools on a particular sport” position. Point and counterpoint sounds equally valid time and time again. Writers seem well-informed and well-intentioned in most cases.

On October 10 Jeff, LaFleur, and mgguy made good posts on the subject on the 2014 thread and got me thinking yet again.

My current thought is just this simple point. Take the roster of any private school and find the true residence (not staying with relative or good friends, etc) of each player. If said roster has players from a multitude of locations or other districts; how can the playing field be level with teams of the same class size who are limited to their specific drawing area? That is it! One simple question; not coaching, not fan backing, not recruiting, not transferring, not better education; or any other issue.

Let me once again emphasize that I am not speaking for or against any of the issues that I have listed, or perhaps omitted; I am saying one simple test – where do you live and where do you play (in this specific issue) football. And in the answer; does this seem to make for a level field for competition. And it applies to all schools everywhere, private, charter, or public.

Many public schools are “Area” schools, i.e. Easton Area, Berwick Area, Southern Columbia Area, etc. These defined areas may be bigger than one particular community, but the PIAA classification system should take care of issues regarding this. The residence of the players on these rosters should be within the “area” that is designated for each system. I would think in most cases this would be several smaller communities and their immediate suburban outskirts. The PIAA classification enrollment system is what keeps the field level for these schools versus single community schools.

If I understand the D12 guys correctly, a Philadelphia Public School (PPL) student can attend any city public school of his choice. Of course he has to get there and home again and I would imagine that makes it cumbersome to attend a school of choice too distant from home. Being a large city is an advantage, but there are also a lot of schools to distribute the talent within. But, if you think of the city in “areas” or “neighborhoods” you get a feel for public schools that are akin to the small community or large community schools outside of the city. There are prominent strong schools yearly (Washington, Frankford, etc); middle of the league teams; and struggling teams. Their roster residence lists can be anywhere in the city, but just plain difficulty in reaching one point or another economically or geographically keeps ALL the talent from matriculating to one school. I do not know near enough about the charter school situation to intelligently talk about it, but I would guess that they share the private school ability to have students from anywhere on their roster. I do not know for certain.

I thoroughly enjoy attending high school football games. I enjoy watching very good teams execute, and I enjoy watching struggling programs match each other. Any game is a potential “good game.” I have seen many PPL and PCL teams play locals in Bucks County over the many years. I have seen Archbishop Wood three times already this season and the LaSalle magnificent game included. Tremendously satisfying high school football!

I know that one Wood player lives in Bensalem and one in the Horsham area. Both are fine players and starters. Both would help their struggling home teams (Bensalem 0-7) and (H-H 2-5) if they played at home. They made a choice to do otherwise and I wish them nothing but success.

I mention the two players only to close with my one point for the article. List the real residence of each player on the team roster. Can opposing teams have the same opportunity to have diverse roster residency? If not, is the playing field level?

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