A proposal that would separate public and private schools into their own KSHSAA sanctioned state championships has been submitted to the association by the Frontier League and will be on the agenda for the KSHSAA Board of Directors meeting on Sep. 18.
Paola High School athletic director Jeff Hines, who has previously conducted statewide surveys into the ongoing public-versus-private classification debate, said he believes now is the time to push a proposal forward.
“We feel like our league has been very patient in waiting for KSHSAA to take action,” Hines said. “It appears that they are moving forward in researching the topic, but we’re unwilling to wait for them to complete their study. Why should we let another generation of athletes be subjected to a postseason format that doesn’t have any competitive balance? Now is just as good a time as any.”
KSHSAA executive director Bill Faflick confirmed to the Sun that he received the Frontier League’s proposal and that it is on the September agenda but didn’t want to discuss many other details as he had yet to formally inform every member school.
Faflick also told the Sun that KSHSAA received a second proposal that deals with classification. Hines said he’s “90% sure” that proposal will involve splitting Class 1A into two divisions.
With the Frontier League’s proposal on the agenda, the next step is to get a motion seconded at the board of directors meeting for the issue to be discussed. Hines, as well as Ottawa High School Principal Kelly Whittaker, are both members of the Frontier League and intend to bring that proposal up for debate.
The KSHSAA Board of Directors will then have to vote by majority as to whether or not to bring the proposal to a vote from member schools.
“I doubt it gets past the board of directors,” Parsons High School Principal Eric Swanson said. “Personally, I liked the multiplier idea and I liked the success factor idea.”
Shane Holtzman, the principal at Labette County High School who represents the Southeast Kansas League on the board of directors, said debate and discussion is much-needed on the topic.
“I think there needs to be a conversation had,” Holtzman said. “I know with who’s on the board of directors the Frontier League will make a motion and second for it to be heard. When you get as big of a group as it will be, it can be hard to tell how that conversation will go.”
Holtzman said he intends to meet with other SEK League administrators before heading up for the board meeting next month.
“We’ve had conversations with our districts within our league,” Holtzman said. “Based on those, I don’t think our league would be in favor of separate divisions.”
Under the Frontier League’s proposal, private schools would be responsible for getting with KSHSAA and creating a playoff system of their own should the proposal be enacted.
Private schools would still be KSHSAA member schools but would not compete for the same state titles as public schools.
In Hines’ statewide survey conducted last year, 87% of the 313 schools that responded supported a change to the current system. 74% responded in support of a population multiplier, 64% would support a competitive balance factor and 51% would support separate divisions.
“We felt the population multiplier was too unfair to private schools that, for lack of a better term, aren’t sports academies,” Hines said. “This way, we can allow private schools to create their own postseason without being unfair to private schools that don’t prioritize athletics.”
Hines also said a competitive balance factor would be difficult to implement.
“There are just too many moving parts,” Hines said. “There are too many factors that you’d have to take into consideration. We felt this was a simpler solution that everybody could get behind.”
Should the proposal be sent to a vote to member schools, a simple majority of member schools plus a majority of classes, four out of six, would have to vote in favor of the change.
Faflick said if all those steps take place, he would take those results to the Kansas Legislature to try to change a statute that requires schools to be classified by student attendance.
“Because it deals with classification other than a straight student enrollment number, we’ll take this information to the legislative body and ask for a statute change. That’s the final step before anything could take place. We can’t have a handbook rule contrary to state statute,” Faflick said.
Faflick told the Sun that attorneys for KSHSAA have interpreted Hines’ proposal as a violation of that statute.
“Our attorney has suggested that if we don’t do anything other than putting schools in numerical order according to population … that would not any longer be according to student attendance and be contrary to the way the statute is written,” Faflick said.
Hines said his goal between now and the board meeting in September is to rally support for the proposal.
“It’s really difficult to educate everybody because our state is so big,” Hines said. “My communications and circle of contacts is primarily with 4A schools. So how do I have a conversation with a 1A principal in western Kansas? We know this proposal is not the most likely to pass. If we wrote in a multiplier, it would pass. But we didn’t feel like it was the best option. We truly believe this is the best way to go about it.”
Getting a proposal advocating for separate divisions may be an uphill battle. But it’s a sign of momentum that the issue of private-versus-public classification in KSHSAA may be nearing change.
“My gut says that there wouldn’t be the support to have private schools totally separated,” Swanson added. “But we need something to make it more equitable. I’ve been a coach for a long time in Kansas and seeing the litany of private schools and state tournaments makes me wonder what we’re doing.”