Commentary: Recreating Competitve Balance in Kansas Football

by David Brox, davidbrox@shukc.com

There is an elephant in the room when it comes to Kansas football and especially here in the metro area.  A couple of years back Bishop Miege’s enrollment dropped them into the 4A-I pool of football teams.  I don’t want to diminish the accomplishments of this program but they instantly became the consensus favorite to win state titles and they have not disappointed the last two years.  In district and playoffs the last two years I would say they have played 1 competitive game in the last 2 years.  That was the title game in 2014 against Hayden.

The tears have been rolling as people (including myself) complain about a 4A school with limited enrollment fielding a football roster 89 deep and not just numbers but incredibly talented.  My complaints were extremely personal as they smashed two of the teams that I follow.  The 2014 Piper team especially built up to that moment only to get beat down by what best can be described as a 4A enrollment with 6A talent.

So I won’t pull punches here.  The conversation is surrounding private schools like Bishop Miege, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. James Academy, Bishop Carroll, Bishop Hayden etc.  What is the complaint exactly?  Well the perception is that they can recruit talent.  While I can’t say that coaches are out visiting families and luring them to these schools.  I do know that quality talent chooses to go there and has the open freedom to do so.  This does affect in KCAL schools.  With private money you are going to get good coaches that are able to maximize talent.  Miege for example graduated a QB that is starting for KU and replaced him with a kid that could possibly be better throwing for over 3500 yards and almost 40 TD’s as a sophomore.

The disadvantage to a public school is quite simple.  In a majority of cases the public schools get what they get with in a small radius.  Now some do have open enrollment that allows out of district students but that comes with a price and not one as readily accepted as anyone may think.  School boards who are strapped for cash must make these decisions and trust me success on a playing field isn’t top of the list.

I want to be clear that I don’t begrudge the kids or the private schools rather the method we are using to determine a competitive balance.  That is in fact what the class definitions by enrollment is supposed to do right?  It is supposed to prevent a school with 1300 kids available to field a football team kicking the snot out of a school with 300.  What happens when a school can maximize its small population and attract talent?

What “some” schools have done to win does not apply to all.  The discussion of a private school enrollment modifier is not viable in my opinion.  The thought that Bishop Ward would get a modifier and play up is absurd.  I have never gone in depth about this topic in an article for a specific reason.  There is no point complaining about something unless you have a viable solution to fix it.  So instead of just spouting off and getting a lot of cheese with my whines, I come with a solution.  Enrollment as a sole means to classify football teams in Kansas is now outdated.

I turn to European soccer as a foundation for this solution.  Based on your success, strength of schedule and ranking you move up or down in class.  This will be incredibly rough but I just need to have everyone understand the concept.

6A is the peek class.  The goal would be to find x number of schools that can compete for the highest level state title.

5A down to 4A-II would be populated down with initial classification being done the old fashion way (enrollment).  You then simply follow these rules or some form of them.  If you want to go conservative then you can say two teams but you can easily adjust this to 4.

The finalists in a state football game of 4A-II – 5A will move up each year.  So Mill Valley and Bishop Carroll would move to 6A
Bishop Miege would move to 5A.
The bottom two teams in 6A – 4A-I division will move down.  This will be subjective but necessary.

So I have teams that would be on both sides of this coin in my opinion.  Mill Valley would move up and teams like Wyandotte, Harmon and Bishop Ward could feasibly move down and out of their unwinnable situations they are in. 

Harmon or Wyandotte if we speak frankly boasts two of the biggest enrollments would likely land in 4A-I if not 4A-II based on having that level of player population to compete with.  Teams like this would be a very interesting study.  It however offers them a shot.

These are my thoughts.  What I do know is what we have now isn’t creating a competitive environment.  I am not just speaking about private schools as Mill Valley themselves have shown how numbers and solid coaching can lead to building a state championship team.  The question though is whether their success is sustainable over a period of time or did they catch the right group of seniors.

All feedback is welcome.

2 Comments

  1. I find this topic very interesting and agree that there is almost certainly a better way to create competitive balance, however having a school move up based on having a championship season seems somewhat extreme. Taking the private schools out of the equation for a moment, lets look a a school like Mill Valley for example: their 2016 class was obviously extremely talented but they also took their lumps by playing better competition and building towards this years run. Having to move "up" while trying to replace Jegen, Koch,Hecht, etc. almost seems like a punishment instead of a reward.

  2. I agree that this would be extreme but Mill Valley is easily one of the largest schools in 5A and while losing players like Jegen and Koch will hurt they have been producing D1 caliber players each year. Applebee has been building a good program. Next year players like Ike Valencia who got some valuable time will be very good.

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