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Chapman: Those dang private schools

By Staff | Mar 28, 2014

Gosh dangit, I’ve had about enough of these private schools dominating the North Dakota sports scene! I mean, really, it’s getting ridiculous!

They can recruit and take all the best players and make dynasties that spoil Class B competition!

Wait, what’s that? Since 1960, private schools have won only seven of the Class B boys basketball titles? And since 1974, private schools have combined to win only four of the Class B girls basketball championships?

How can that be? In the two and a half years I’ve been around North Dakota prep sports, I’ve heard countless times about how unfair it is for some of these schools to be competing in Class B or the lower football divisions. The grumbling about football is on a lesser scale, but some people persist, arguing that Shanley, Bishop Ryan and St. Mary’s (Bismarck) should be in Class AAA.

Those schools have been fairly successful in AA football – private schools have won 10 of the 17 championships since the last classification setup in 1997. But it wasn’t the kids who decided what class they would play in.

Enough is enough. Forgive the curmudgeon in me, but it gets old listening to people constantly look for excuses. It sets a bad example for the kids and the conversation tends to devolve into immature speculation and condemnation of adolescents, who largely have no say in where they receive an education.

Luckily, you’ll seldom hear these complaints from the hard working athletes in public or private schools. You guessed it, it usually comes from fans and parents with little knowledge of the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s classification system.

For basketball, a school needs an enrollment of more than 325 from grades 9 through 12 to be placed in Class A. Shanley is 335 in grades 7 through 12, and St. Mary’s is 330 in 9 through 12. Ryan has 131 students in 9 through 12; Oak Grove Lutheran (Fargo) has 199 in 7 through 12; Shiloh Christian (Bismarck) has 98 in 9 through 12. These figures are according to the NDHSAA’s 2013-14 Directory of Member Schools.

There are three other private schools that field their own basketball teams with enrollments ranging from 84 to 170, but they’re not typically the institutions whined about.

Football is a little different. There are four classifications – 9-Man, A, AA and AAA – based on male enrollment in grades 7 through 10. For scheduling purposes, an equal amount of teams are placed in each region for Classes A, AA and AAA, so enrollment isn’t the only factor. The two AAA regions have seven teams each, and the two AA regions and four A regions have eight teams each. Three of the four 9-Man regions have nine teams each and the other has 10.

Matt Fetsch, the incoming NDHSAA executive secretary, said there are two-year plans for the classification system and schools can be shifted if their enrollments rise or decline. This fall will mark the second of the current term, so changes can be made ahead of the 2015-2016 school year.

All of this is out of the general public’s control (though, that’s not to say the NDHSAA and schools are dismissive of the sporting community’s concerns).

The now two-time defending state champion Bishop Ryan girls are fortunate to have a couple 6-foot-2 players, who would undoubtedly excel in Class A. Who is to say their folks don’t want them to have a faith-based education? Frankly, it’s no one’s business but theirs.

I’ve heard people complain about a pair of Fargo brothers playing on different teams. Again, not anyone else’s business why that is.

And if a private school has the funds to reward scholarship money, they can do that. It’s all too common nowadays for people to look for excuses as to why their favorite team isn’t the winner.

Public schools and private schools across the country recruit. It happens everywhere, every year and rules are broken – and sometimes never exposed. That’s unfortunate, but it’s also a part of life. If there’s one cliche, I don’t mind using, it’s that life’s isn’t fair. And that’s because it’s true.

For the majority of these athletes, they will find out that not a lot is handed to you once you’re on your own. Adults need to do a better job of driving that point home and not increasing the culture of “that’s not fair.” Get over it.

High school sports are not about the adults. The camaraderie shown between the teams at the state tournaments is proof. The players aren’t holding petty stereotypes against opponents and worrying about be slighted.

It’s time some of the adults follow the lead of the student-athletes.

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