MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The debate between private vs. public has been a hot topic among Class A coaches, administrators and fans in the state for some time.

That continued this week as the SSAC board of control (member schools principals and athletic directors) voted on a handful of rule proposals addressing the current classification set-up as a couple will go through to the state board of education for consideration.

The state board could elect to vote on the proposals or table one or more all together.

One of the proposals up for consideration would separate the eight current private schools into their own classification for postseason tournaments.

Similar proposals have been offered up in the past and failed — a result that seems likely for this version as well.

“We did have our legal counsel look at it and they did give us the evaluation that the proposal was problematic and not sure whether it was legal or not, because it would be treating a group of schools differently,” said SSAC executive director Bernie Dolan.

The legal counsel advised the Board of Control voters this week of those legality issues, but it passed anyway, 100-24.

“In my mind, it’s not a public vs. private issue,” Dolan said. “It’s an urban vs. rural issue. All of our private schools are in big cities and have access to a lot more things – they have some advantages over some of our smaller public schools who are out in the country.”

That’s why Dolan says they aren’t dismissing the issue and will be moving forward, regardless, working toward finding a potential adjustment, even if the current proposal ultimately dies at the state board of education level.

“It’s our stance that there are other ways to classify schools and we hope to come up with some new proposals,” Dolan said. “We’ve always classified based strictly on enrollment, but this day and age, there are people who have thought of other things. So we can branch off of what they have done and look at some other potential options.

“As far as this proposal goes, the private schools have come into membership at different times and they were brought in with full membership,” he continued. “We feel like we need to treat them equally.”

Dolan will be putting a committee together to further study the topic and come up with potential tweaks or changes to classification down the road.

“Most of the ideas are based around competitive balance – no matter what class you’re in, if you’re ultra successful for a string of years, you will probably go up a class. A couple of schools would go up, a couple would go down,” Dolan said. “California has something similar to that and Indiana has a method that is pretty simple, based on performance and classification. Ohio has a system that is a little more complicated.

“We’ve looked at a couple of models,” he continued. “But we want to bring a group of coaches, principals and athletic directors together. We’ll see if we can look at it, see if it makes sense or see if some other ideas come up. We might be able to come up with something that would be a little better.”

Another proposal that did move forward this week (108-16 vote) included schools having the option, per sport, to compete in one class above its designated classification from the SSAC – it would be for a four-year period.

The current rule obligates every sport to compete a classification higher if the school would make that choice to move up.

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