The Alabama High School Athletic Association claims it needed to pass a Competitive Balance rule in order to make sure the same private schools with all of their advantages and privileges didn’t keep winning all the championships.
The problem with that logic is that the same schools are not winning all the championships. Last football season, two of seven state champions were private schools. The previous year there were zero, just like there were none in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
There has never been a year in which more than two state championships were awarded to private schools. In fact, since the first state champion was officially crowned in 1966, only 20 of 270 have been private schools. That’s less than 8 percent of the championships won by private schools. That’s a lower number than the total of state championships that have been won by teams from Jefferson County. But you don’t see anyone considering a state law to crack down on Hoover and Homewood and those schools that also work hard to excel.
So let’s get to the real reason for “competitive balance.”
The reason the rule was passed was to make a public showing that the AHSAA was taking a stand against those evil, successful private school people living in their mansions and driving their new SUVs with their better-than-you school crests on the back window.
That’s it. This unfair and petty rule was born out of pure jealousy and was intended to be a public showing of punishment for those private schools that dared to make a commitment to excellence in academics as well as extracurricular activities.
I understand the tough spot the AHSAA and Executive Director Steve Savarese are in. Savarese and every other person associated with the AHSAA I’ve ever met have the best interest of the student-athletes in mind every day. Even after this punitive and ill-advised move, I completely believe that.
The issue for Savarese is that he desperately wants to keep all the decision-making about high school sports where it belongs — inside the AHSAA. When some jealous public school parents caught the attention of some opportunistic state legislators, that decision-making power was threatened.
Thus, there was the need for a public flogging of the most successful private school programs in an effort to show there was no need for the government to get involved.
I understand that reasoning. But it doesn’t make it right to punish private schools for being successful while not doing the same to public schools that have had even more success while enjoying many of the same advantages.
Last week, St. Paul’s lost its initial court filing against the AHSAA and Savarese. The school was asking for an emergency injunction that would have allowed St. Paul’s to continue to play in Class 5A instead of moving up to the larger Class 6A based on the school’s football success in recent years.
The judge, William Steele (the greatest name for a federal judge ever), was correct in denying the injunction. As much as I side with St. Paul’s in the school’s assertion it is being treated unfairly, the key point has always been that St. Paul’s isn’t required to be a member of the AHSAA. If school officials can’t work within the organization to find a suitable answer to any issue, then they are always free to literally take their ball and go home.
Judge Steele was almost completely right in his ruling. But I take great exception to the following portion of the ruling:
“With respect to the equal protection claim, St. Paul’s has made an insufficient showing that the Association was motivated by ‘bare animus’ against private schools; therefore, the challenged classification must be evaluated using deferential rational-basis review.”
I don’t for one second think anyone at the AHSAA has animus toward St. Paul’s or any other private school. But there is no question that the competitive balance rule was intended to publicly show that the AHSAA was willing to go along with the jealous and petty parents and politicians who most certainly were motivated by animus.
St. Paul’s and all other private schools were already playing in a higher classification than their enrollment numbers would indicate. According to the AHSAA, the enrollment in grades 10-12 at St. Paul’s is 310 students. That number would make St. Paul’s one of the smallest Class 4A schools in the state. But once the 1.35 multiplier is applied for all private schools, that number goes to 418. That makes St. Paul’s a Class 5A school. Now, pile on top of the multiplier this competitive balance nonsense and the Saints will be playing in Class 6A.
To get an idea of what kind of jump that is, consider this: The largest school in Class 6A has an enrollment of 1,046 students. The smallest school in Class 6A has an enrollment of 606 students. St. Paul’s has 310.
Look at those numbers and try to convince yourself animus didn’t fit into this equation somewhere.
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station.
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