There was a story in the Marion (Ohio) Star recently, indicating that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA, the PIAA's Ohio counterpart) is looking at separating the public and private school championships.
Based on the story, this issue has some legs in Ohio. That's interesting because the reasons for considering such a drastic move are virtually identical to the reasons the issue has been discussed - without success - in Pennsylvania.
Only three states that have private schools as members of their state associations have separate championships. Other states have only public schools as members.
As it happens, Pennsylvania is ripe for a serious look at the matter, even though Catholic schools are shrinking in enrollment and numbers (Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, which each used to have numerous Catholic high schools, are each served by one now; several Philadelphia area Catholic schools have merged in the last three years).
The PIAA is currently in the process of reviewing its entire structure, from the public vs. private issue right down to how it qualifies schools for its championships. Never has the climate been better for actual change.
But the question here is: Should it change? Advocates of separate championships for public and private schools or at least a different system of classification for private schools are passionate about the issue. Proof is that the matter is revisited on a perennial basis.
Personally, I think this is Crybaby Central and always has been. The privates have an advantage available to them, but I can't abide separate championships.
It is a fact that private schools have won a high proportion of basketball championships relative to their numbers, especially in Class AA and and Class A. The problem is especially acute in small-school girls basketball.
The privates show up pretty large in other sports as well, soccer chief among them. But by and large, private school dominance is a non-issue in a number of sports. There's an enormous amount of data available on this issue, but we're just going to focus on totals.
All-time, there have been 1,580 PIAA team championships in all sports (excluding gymnastics, which is absent complete results). Of those 1,580 team titles, 243 - or 15 percent - have been won by private schools. That's roughly the percentage of private schools that are PIAA members.
But private schools have only been PIAA members since 1972; PIAA has been conducting championships since 1920, starting with boys basketball and adding other sports over the years.
When the pre-1972 years are excluded, the percentage of private school championships jumps to about 26 percent, an over-representation.
Since this is a general, and not a scientific, exercise, I'm skipping past all of the necessary statistics and disclaimers and possibilities to get to a central point: Yes, privates do have an advantage because of their ability to draw from multiple public school districts and even nationwide (Milton Hershey comes to mind).
But so what?
I get the advantage, but I can't stand the whining. I wouldn't argue against a reasonable remedy regarding classifications, but there is no way I would support separate championships.
The great thing about the PIAA championships is they are virtually all-inclusive since the addition of the Philadelphia Public League and Philadelphia Catholic League schools. In that sense, I wouldn't have it any other way.
So, yes, there are some private school issues that merit serious discussion. But separate championships should not be a part of that discussion.
Rod Frisco, a former sports writer at the Harrisburg Patriot-News, operates rodfrisco.com, a website devoted to Pennsylvania high school sports coverage.