It is a day of celebration in N’West Iowa as the Iowa High School Sports Network’s deal with NBC Sports Chicago is officially over.
That nightmare of a deal kept a good part of the western half of the state from being able to access broadcasts of the Iowa High School Athletic Association state championships in football, wrestling and basketball for three long years.
While I wouldn’t necessarily jump to the conclusion that public pressure is what fostered a major change from the IHSSN once the contract was up, it certainly didn’t hurt. Nor did the efforts of the IHSAA, which was quite defensive about it for the first year or so, but eventually switched gears and started encouraging the IHSSN to consider other ways to make the broadcasts more highly accessible. It certainly makes Tom Keating, who is in his first month on the job as the IHSAA executive director, look great.
But who cares who gets the credit? The bottom line is that Ken Krogman and the IHSSN thought it through and came up with a way to make the broadcasts available to just about anyone through one method or another. That’s all we wanted all along.
No perfect system
The other big story in this week’s edition revolves around the idea of changing the way the IHSAA and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Association handle classifying schools for athletic competition.
It basically comes down to the age-old argument between public schools and private schools. It never ends. If I had a nickel for every time a public school supporter has come to me and said that a private school recruits, I would have retired already. Yet year after year, it seems to be the same family names dominating the headlines at said private schools. On the other side of it, there have been some fairly well-documented cases, especially in larger cities, where some very good athletes suddenly jump ship from a public school program and wind up at a private school.
The newest idea is to factor in socioeconomic issues, with the main suggestion being to use the numbers of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs. The problem I see there is that some private schools, including Western Christian and Trinity Christian, do not even participate in the government program so how would you judge where they stand?
That was only a part of what Iowa City High football coach Dan Sabers had in mind. According to a column by Bill Tubbs of The North Scott Press, Sabers submitted a four-point plan. Under his plan, a school would be bumped up a class if it met any of these criteria: The ability to decline admission; a location within 15 miles of a Class 4A school, fewer than 25 percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches, or a jump in enrollment by 50 percent over a three-year span.
Just the first point of that plan alone means that by virtue of being a private school, you are automatically getting kicked up a class. That results in some real inequities in the size of schools competing against each other. In boys basketball for example, if North Iowa Christian School of Mason City fielded a team it would have to compete in Class 2A, where the largest school is Greene County at 291 students. North Iowa Christian School has an enrollment of 22.
Tubbs suggests in his column that the 42 nonpublic schools should play their own tournament. He suggests the smallest school play in the early rounds for the right to play the biggest.
It’s hard to envision that tournament being anything other than the Dowling Catholic Invitational. That school, located in West Des Moines, has an enrollment of 1,076. The next largest nonpublic school in the state, Cedar Rapids Xavier, has 499 students. Unity Christian is tied for eighth in enrollment among nonpublic schools at 213. Western Christian is 10th at 197.
It seems to me that the best system is the one we already have in place. Yes, some schools will have certain advantages over others. It’s always been that way and always will be, no matter what system we use. I agree with West Sioux football coach Ryan Schwiesow. The world isn’t a fair place. Nothing is ever going to be equal, which is a good lesson for students to learn. However, it’s also important to see that in our nation we still have the opportunity to overcome those disadvantages through hard work and achieve our dreams.