Hill-Murray players celebrate their boys' hockey Class 2A state championship in March
When state tournaments roll around, how private schools fit into the current system devised by the MSHSL is always a topic of debate.
In the 2018-19 school year, private schools (not charter or home schools), which make up approximately 14 percent of MSHSL member schools, won 28 percent of state team championships. Is that a fair and equitable percentage? Do private schools have an advantage?
On the other hand, the very nature of private schools is such that they need to attract students to make up a student body. They don’t have established youth athletic programs that become natural feeder systems for public high school athletic programs. Are they judged unfairly?
And what about perennially successful public programs? Should they be held to a similar standard?
We asked for your thoughts on this topic: Should private schools be held to a higher or different standard for postseason play? We received a strong response, through Twitter and email. Here are some of your thoughts.
“What is a fair percentage for us to win? When I came to Minnehaha in 99-00, they had won 2 State Titles - 1986 Tennis and 1998 Girls Soccer. 2 Banners in our Gym, and no one from the public, media or MSHSL cried a single tear. Now that we’re winning with regularity we’re demonized. Hopkins, Lakeville North, Edina, etc. also get off way too easy in this debate. They wall-paper entire gymnasiums with their banners - Randolph, Mound-Westonka and Irondale do not. Separate Sections for the perennial winners from Public Schools? Are they equals to SP Harding and Minneapolis Roosevelt? My point is go ahead and open up this can of worms again, but don’t bury the inequality between the Public Schools as well.” Josh Thurow, Athletic/Activities Director, Minnehaha Academy
“Are public schools at a disadvantage? I don’t think so. The belief that private school kids get to go places to play sports with scholarships is a rarity, and honestly, probably more of a myth this day and age. Even the top boarding schools are limited in what they offer strictly for athletics.
“Don’t most school districts allow for open enrollment going into ninth grade? Couple that with school districts many places allowing 7th and 8th graders to compete in varsity sports, what is the difference between transferring to a private school to play sports during your high school years than transferring to an open-enrollment district before the ninth grade?
“Then there’s recruiting. Are private schools supposed to open their doors and hope people find out about them? How are you supposed to get people in the door? Not advertise? Don’t market to the local area? Don’t hire the best teachers and coaches they can find because, well, they’re not supposed to draw any kids from the local public school footprint? And if they do, they’re not supposed to compete or win over them?” Jason Bryant, nationally prominent wrestling writer, broadcaster and announcer.
“As a graduate of a private high school, there is 100% “recruiting” of student-athletes. However, there is no doubt this exists at public schools as well. Athletes commonly “change addresses” to attend a different public school. The issue is not public vs. private. The core problem is the pressure put on these kids to win and get the exposure needed to get scholarships.
“Splitting up private and public schools simply is not a solution. Way back in the day it used to be this way, but will Eden Prairie really feel good about calling themselves “Winning” State even though they didn’t have to beat STA, Benilde, CDH, Hill and Blake?” Cole Bredahl, Cretin-Derham Hall Class of 2016
“I do not believe that private schools should be held to different standards that public schools in MN. Private schools are held to the same rules that public schools are held to, so it's a level playing field from that perspective. However, private schools have far fewer athletes to draw upon that the larger public schools and also lack youth feeder programs, which is a disadvantage to private schools.” Denis Budniewski
“Do what Missouri is doing. Acknowledges the reality of small, generally uncompetitive schools vs. the Brecks and Blakes of the world. Doesn’t make sense to have all private schools judged equally given their different purposes. I would consider applying this postseason success formula to all schools, public and private.” Ryan Gau
“It would be nice to see them have their own class or all of them get put into the biggest class.” Kent Hamre, girls’ basketball coach
“Blake, STA [St. Thomas Academy], Breck, HM [Hill-Murray], and BSM [Benilde-St. Margaret’s] are winning year after year. What is the issue with having them be successful? Is it because they recruit athletes? So do schools like EP [Eden Prairie], Minnetonka, Lakeville North, and Edina. It may just not be as evident to others when they do that.
"So there aren’t level playing fields in schools and sports. Some schools recruit, some schools are too big, some schools have more money than others. This means other schools will always be better, bigger, and richer than you. What can you do? You can work with your athletes and push them to be better personally. They can get in the gym more, they can lift weights more, they can study the game more.
"I am a firm believer that hard work can beat talent when talent won’t work hard. I want teams to focus on what they can do and not focus on what others do.” Lance Kuehn, boys’ lacrosse coach
"This is a tired, old debate. And one that is less and less valid as public schools open enroll MANY of their athletes. From my experience in a small private school (21 seasons), we struggle to keep our own athletes, much less recruit others." Jon Ledeboer @thelazyfarmer7
"Private schools get their own section. They still might win state but we get 7 public schools to watch. If they get the advantage of pulling kids from all over the state, they get the disadvantage of all being in one section." @PJFleek
"Privates should have to play up at least one class. They generally don’t have to deal with populations less apt to be able to afford or consider playing competitive sports. EL, Special Ed, Free and reduced lunch, those numbers rarely play, they don’t have them." Pat Barrett @pblefty3
"In my experience, private schools can have just as much variance as public schools do when it comes to sports competition. Even if they win about 1 in 4 state titles, I'm not sure a separate standard would be much of a benefit." Mike Peden @TheMikePeden
"What about open enrollment at public schools?" Chris Olson @ChrisOlson763
"Athletes want to play against the best. Public or private. Separating them creates the impression that private schools are better whether they are or not." Paul Castagnetto @CastagnettoPaul
"All schools self-police eligibility and there is NO enforcement when violations occurs. I’d prefer first the enforcement of the current rules in place and to NOT waiver when lawsuits are “threatened”. Recruitment is a reality. This is not limited to private schools FYI. " @CaptainFina
"Yes. They need their own class or all of them should be made to play up a class (or two, depending on the sport)." Nate Russell @araval21
"Absolutely. When a school can recruit as well as offer scholarships, it's an uneven playing field." Sean Hohnstadt @Shohnstadt
"Lumping all private schools into one group, let alone one section, would be a huge mistake. Most private schools aren't able to get the top athletes like 2% of those top private schools." NLAGolf @golf_nla
"It's high school sports. There is already too much analysis about championships. 99% of teams/players don't win anything and they get all the same benefits. Make sure sport is accessible, fair & safe; that's enough." Aaron Tinklenberg @atinklenberg
"[Private schools] Should have their own tourney...especially hockey." Blair Kelley @herbalifewithbk
"Your analysis is incomplete. There are schools that dominate, some private and some public. In the higher classes it is schools like Edina, Eden Prairie, Lakeville North. Affluent areas. In lower classes schools like Minneota and Caledonia dominate because they have strong youth programs." Mr. Burnsville @ttaylormn
"Absolutely - either they should play in the top class in most sports or at the minimum at least 1 class up in sports like football & basketball." Gary Slarks @GaryBlue654
"In terms of hockey, it's embarassing that private schools are allowed to play Class A." Tom Hoen @thoen88
"I agree that something should change. The issue seems to be getting worse every year. I’m not sure what the best solution would be. Moving them up a class or two, as some have already done voluntarily. There also shouldn’t be any private schools in Class A in any sport." Chad Swanson @ccswanson