In a first attempt to level the playing field between public and private schools, the IHSA instituted the private school multiplier in 2005.
The rule multiplied nonboundaried school enrollments by 1.65 to determine playoff classification.
Now, almost 10 years later, a much more drastic measure will be proposed to promote postseason equity.
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 nonboundary schools.
A few other states, including Texas, already have such a policy in place (or at least in certain classes).
The IHSA is adding a success factor in the 2015-16 school year for those private or nonboundaried schools that have dominated in the postseason. That still might not satisfy some schools, which feel the private schools have decisive advantages.
Marian Central, in Woodstock, is the only local school that would be part of the private group splitting off in the postseason.
“It’s not the first time it’s ever come around,” Marian athletic director Drew Potthoff said. “I’d be opposed to it, even if I was on the public side. Going to two separate tournaments doesn’t make any sense. I think it would be an absolute mess. It’d be ugly.”
First-year Glenbard South AD Tim Carlson has a balanced 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-10 (with Rockford Boylan), the Western Big Six (with Rock Island Alleman) and the South Seven Conference (with Belleville Althoff) – also mix public and nonboundary schools, but not to the extent of the MSC.
Benet AD Gary Goforth, whose team competes in the East Suburban Catholic Conference with Marian Central, 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 affected 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 nonboundary 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.”
Potthoff, the former McHenry AD, understands a level of frustration from public schools, but is uncertain the proposal for separate tournaments will gain much traction.
“Everything generates from the playoffs and equity,” he said. “The IHSA’s trying to do things with the multiplier and success factor. That’ll all play out. Let’s see how that changes things for at least two years. I think two tournaments would alienate a lot of schools and there would be all kinds of conference-jumping. The logistics of two tournaments would be crazy, too.”