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Planned proposal would separate public, private school sports

In a first attempt to level the playing field between public and private schools, the Illinois High School Association instituted the private school multiplier in 2005.

The rule multiplied private school enrollments by 1.65 to determine playoff class.

Now, nearly 10 years later, a much more drastic measure could be in the works.

According to Addison Trail principal Adam Cibulka, the West Suburban Conference is preparing to submit a proposal to the IHSA this fall that would create separate divisions in state tournaments for boundary and non-boundary schools.

A few other states, including Texas, already have such a policy in place (or at least in certain classes).

Hinsdale Central athletic director Dan Jones said the proposal comes on the heels of talk about instituting a success factor, which was originally set to debut this year before being delayed. The success factor would move private schools up in class based on previous postseason success, but complete separation would drastically alter the athletic landscape.

ADs weigh in

First-year Glenbard South athletic director Tim Carlson has a unique perspective on the issue, having spent 12 years working at private schools, including 10 as an AD at St. Viator and Guerin.

"We are certainly right at the beginning stages and we don't have any of the details," he said. "But in all honestly, do I think this is the answer to the problem? No. There is something to be said about playing everybody and challenging yourself and playing programs that are strong. It forces you to raise your level of play a little bit."

His biggest concern is what might happen to the Metro Suburban Conference, of which the Raiders are a member, if such a proposal passes. The league is expanding to 14 schools this year and includes both public and private institutions.

"From the Metro Suburban Conference perspective, we have a private and public mix," Carlson said. "Talking with John Treiber (former Glenbard South AD) and talking to some other ADs, what makes the MSC work is we've been able to work through issues and do it collaboratively.

"If something like this happens, what would it mean for the Metro Suburban? Does it do damage to the conference? It's a tough sell. We are in a unique position and so much work has been put in by these ADs, certainly not by me, I'm new, but especially John Treiber. I'd hate to see that crumble."

A few other conferences in the state – such as the Central State Eight (with Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin), the Northern Illinois Conference (with Rockford Boylan), the Western Big Six (with Rock Island Alleman), and the South Seven Conference (with Belleville Althoff) – also mix public and non-boundary schools, but not to the extent of the MSC.

Benet and Nazareth are two area schools that compete in East Suburban Catholic Conference, which is comprised entirely of private schools. Benet AD Gary Goforth believes the latest proposal stems from the success factor issue. Already competing in the larger classes in the playoffs (7A for football, 4A for softball, basketball and volleyball), the Redwings wouldn't be greatly effected by the success factor.

Goforth didn't want to talk specifics until reading the proposal, but he believes a complete separation isn't necessarily the best solution.

"If it would force the private and non-boundary schools out of the IHSA, I think that would be a detriment to high school athletics," he said. "We enjoy playing the public schools around us."

Coaches' perspective

Tom McCloskey has also been on both sides of the debate, having been a boys basketball coach at Montini (head coach) and Nazareth (assistant) before his current head coaching gig at Riverside Brookfield.

"I kind of like to think I was the same coach at Montini and Riverside Brookfield," he said. "I believe in all the things that we're doing. My approach has almost been the exact same. It's basketball. It's getting kids to love playing and getting a program together. It's not really much different.

"But I do see both sides of it, obviously private schools have an advantage as far as getting kids outside of certain boundaries."

If the split were to occur, it would drastically change the playoff landscape for local small schools like Lisle and Westmont. Those two schools typically mix with private schools like IC Catholic, Timothy Christian, Aurora Christian, Walther Christian and St. Edward in the postseason.

"I'm torn because I get along with all those guys and they have good teams and good programs," Westmont boys basketball coach Craig Etheridge said of his private school brethren. "Part of me is loyal to the concept of playing the same teams, but I've also lost kids to Timothy Christian, Nazareth and Montini. I'm curious to see how it plays out on both sides."

Bolingbrook's boys basketball team was knocked out of the playoffs by Benet in 2012. The Raiders and Redwings are typically placed in the same sectional in the playoffs, and this past season Benet won the sectional and went on to play for a state title in Class 4A.

"I think when schools that take whoever walks through the door play against schools that are able to recruit a little bit, it's like comparing apples and oranges," Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. "That being said, we'll play anybody anywhere. All that stuff is out of my control. I'm just trying to get our kids ready to play."

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