Thursday, May 7, 2009

Public Versus Private Schools in Arkansas*


*Wally, you probably need to read this.


On Thursday, May 7, 2009, Wally Hall published a wildly inaccurate and silly "Like It Is" about private schools and financial aid to student-athletes. We will dissect many sentences and paragraphs in that article. Please follow this link and read column yourself to make sure we are not taking the cranky old columnist out of context.

Wally wants to make this an issue of sportsmanship, which it may very well be. He probably could have used lots of examples of good sportsmanship. However, he chose to use the example of a 1974 game in which Elkins beat Winslow 48-0 but held down the score by punting the ball through the endzone when they got to the one yard line. John Bunch broke a national record in that game by rushing for 608 yards. He ran the ball 38 times. If Elkins was showing such great sportsmanship that game, then why in the world did their starting running back play the entire game and carry the ball 38 times?

Let's imagine for a second that Shiloh decided they no longer wanted to score once the game got out of hand, but instead wanted to use the Super Sportsmanlike 1974 Elkins Elks way of keeping the score down. Instead of bringing in their 4th string QB, they leave their entire first string guys in but are punting the ball through the endzone every time they get close. Is Wally going to write about how "sportsmanlike" they are because they only won 35-0 in racking up 800 yards of offense?

Our next beef is that Wally accuses Pulaski Academy (PA) of running up the score by going for it on 4th and 15 on their own 10. We have many things to say about this:
  • Most coaches do not agree with Coach Kevin Kelley when it comes to punting. They have called him a "riverboat gambler" or "crazy," AND they think that the strategy will come back to haunt him someday.

  • Coach Kelley is convinced that punting in almost any situation works AGAINST his team's chances of winning, and he has statistics to back that up.

  • It is either one or the other, but it can't be both.
Most casual observers would look at the situation and think that Coach Kelley is giving the opponents the opportunity to have the ball at the 10 yard line (going in). However, Wally views this as running up the score. What kind of screwed up logic is that?

Next, Wally accuses both Shiloh Christian (SC) and PA of running up the score. PA finished the season 13-1 and the average game was 50-26 while SC finished 13-1 and the average game was 47-14. You will see similar numbers for Junction City (a public school) or Fountain Lake (a public school). As a matter of fact, Fountain Lake won their semi-final game 70-0 over the Lavaca and Junction City beat Norphlet by that same 70-0 score. Where is the call for either of these teams to be bumped one classification OR have them play in their own playoff.

Near the end of the column Wally writes, "There is no such thing as a scholarship at a public school." Unless I am mistaken, EVERY student at the government funded schools in Arkansas attends without paying tuition. They are each provided with a "scholarship" by the same taxpayers that are sometimes paying someone else (i.e., private schools) to educate their children. By the way, the students that go to private schools don't get the benefit of that tax money. It is simply gone.

Obviously, you can see where we stand on this issue. We think that private schools should be allowed to play public schools for championships. However, we also believe that if a school, private or public, is doing anything illegal such as recruiting, then they should be harshly punished and should be banned from postseason play in all sports.

It should also be noted that if this is really an issue of "running up the score," then this should be punished across the board for anyone who is guilty. Connecticut has a rule that if a team wins by 50 or more points, then their coach is suspended the following week. We wouldn't mind seeing that rule, but we would add to it that if it happens twice, the coach be suspended for the remainder of the season. We're pretty sure the Junction Cities, Shilohs, and Fountain Lakes would be able to find a way to keep the scoreboard down if that were the case.

Lastly, we will admit that there is an issue that needs to be resolved. The answer may be to move up Shiloh and PA a class or two or all the way up to 7A. We don't have the answers, but we think it would be a black eye for Arkansas high school athletics not to include some of these very good teams in their championships among all the schools.

We would love to hear your thoughts. Have a good weekend!