There have been many programs that dominate its sport around the country in recent history. You have the University of Connecticut Huskies women’s basketball team winning 90 games in a row. The Penn State women’s volleyball team winning five of the last seven national championships and winning 109 straight games. Lastly, you have the University of Alabama football team that has won three national championships in the last five seasons.
In Pennsylvania, there is a new kind of dominance that is coming over high school sports. Unlike the dynasties that I have mentioned before, this dominance does not come from just one school. The dominance that I am talking about is the way that the private schools of the PIAA put aside and dominate the public schools.
With a focus on the Pittsburgh area, we’ll take a look at the WPIAL, and why private schools should be in a league of their own. First, let’s take into consideration one of the smallest public schools in all of the WPIAL, Leechburg Area High School. For you that may not know, Leechburg is the last public school to win the WPIAL Single-A boys’ basketball championship, which they won in 2007. In the 2012-2013 school year, Leechburg had a total of 224 kids enrolled in grades 9-12, with the largest class being the sophomore class which had 74 kids in its graduating class.
Now you may be asking yourself, why am I providing you this information and why is this relevant? Well, think about this: In many Single-A schools, just like Leechburg, they struggle to find kids and to field their sports teams. They find themselves recruiting kids within the school, some that would not even consider particiating in sports at any other school, to be able to field a team. Also, this means that the most of the kids participate in two or three sports. Now, yes, many private schools in Single-A face these same enrollment numbers. However, these schools do not have set guidelines that say that their students have to live in certain divisions to go to their school. In fact, private schools receive students from multiple different communities and school districts. Really, a Single-A private school seems to turn into what would be considered a Triple-A or Quad-A school.
Now, there are two types of private schools in the WPIAL; there are charter schools and then there are the parochial schools. Charter schools are much more relevant in the Philadelphia area, however, in recent times, there have been two charter schools that have joined the WPIAL. They are Imani Christian Academy and Lincoln Park Performing Arts School. Currently, Imani is facing a WPIAL playoff ban due to being accused of recruiting. However, Lincoln Park has had a plentiful amount of success while in the WPIAL. Founded in 2006, Lincoln Park has had one of the most successful boys basketball teams in the state of Pennsylvania. Since being founded Lincoln Park has reached five WPIAL championship games, winning one, to go along with two state championship appearances. So whoever said Rome wasn’t built in a day, can go ahead and throw out that theory while talking about the Lincoln Park Leopards.
Lincoln Park has not been the only private school that has dominated the WPIAL and PIAA basketball championships in recent times. In fact, the dominance of private schools seems to be most prevalent in Pennsylvania high school basketball, especially Single-A basketball. On the girls side, Monessen is the last public girls basketball team to win the Single-A state championship when the Greyhounds won in 2004. In fact, there have only been two public school state champions in Single-A girls basketball since 1998. From the years 1998 until 2007, there were a total of 17 private schools that played in the Single-A girls basketball championship. That means there were three public schools that played.
As shocking as the girls basketball dominance may be, the boys basketball dominance is even worse. The last public school to win the Single-A state championship in boys basketball was Juniata Valley in 1996. There have only been two public school state champions in Single-A since 1993. The WPIAL is facing the same dominance in boys basketball so far in the 2013-2014 season. So far, the private schools in Single-A through Quad-A have outscored the public schools they played by a total of 324 points. In 42 games that the private schools have beat the public schools, the average margin of victory has been 22.4 points per game.
Basketball is not the only sport that has seen private schools take over this school year. All you have to do is look back at the PIAA football state championships to see this. In the championship games that took place in Hershey last December, six out of the eight finalist were private schools. Breaking it down more, private schools made up three of the four Quad-A finalists, four of the four Triple-A finalists, two of the four Double-A finalists and one of the four Single-A finalists.
I think most of you see in this article that the dominance of the private schools in the PIAA has become an overwhelming occurrence, especially for those kids that attend a smaller public school. Private schools have advantages over the public schools which propel them over these public schools. So I ask, why not make a league for these private schools to compete against each other rather than them beating up on all the public schools? Let the kids that are a part of the public high schools have the chance to hoist a championship trophy at the end of their season and make all their hard work pay off. Splitting the public and private schools would level the playing field. It is something that should be done.