Just as discrimination on the basis of some profile – whether it’s the race of mortgage applicants or the religion of airline passengers – is anathema to our basic values as a nation, discrimination in MHSAA tournaments on the basis of schools’ legal status offends our basic and best instincts in the meritocracy of competitive athletics.
I don’t think it’s fair or beneficial to put all nonpublic schools in separate tournaments or place them in higher classifications of combined tournaments. How can it be right to target nonpublic schools that in some cases provide financial aid to some students when all public schools provide a free education to all students? How can it be right to target unbounded nonpublic schools when most public schools today enroll students from outside their traditional boundaries?
I do think it’s more fair – I’m not yet sure it’s practical – to lower the enrollments of schools for athletic classification purposes on the basis of special populations they educate which tend to lower participation rates within a school – like special education students, migrant students, students on free or reduced lunch, and students whose religious practices prohibit participation. In other words, I’m open-minded to exploration of a more “modern” system that would classify schools by potential participation and not purely by enrollment.
Implementing this new approach has at least two significant practical problems. First, it will not be easy to gain consensus on all the factors that depress participation. This process will take data and discussion, even debate, before a good recommendation can be presented to the Representative Council.
Second, it will not be easy for schools to do the count. Schools already struggle with details and timelines of the current process that could not be more straightforward: “count all but overage students.” If now there are multiple categories of students and some mathematical formulas to apply, more mistakes and delays could follow.
What is “best” in matters such as this is not just what is most fair but also what is reasonably workable to administer, somewhere between overly simplistic and onerously complicated.