By Phil Brozynski
Play up, anyone?
Last spring, the Illinois High School Association approved a recommendation from Executive Director Marty Hickman to adopt a new "Playing Up in Classification Policy" for the 2008-2009 school year.
Essentially, the new policy allows schools to petition to play up in selected sports and or activities. Previously, schools could only petition with the understanding that the school's entire athletic programs would be required to play up.
So how many schools have taken advantage of this new policy?
Exactly one. Highland High School. The sport in which Highland wanted to "play up?" Competitive cheerleading. The lack of schools petitioning to "play up" has caught even the IHSA off-guard.
Two years ago under the old policy, (Peoria) Manual, a public school with 588 students, asked to be classified as a Class AA school in the final year of the two-class basketball format back in 2007.
Of course, that meant at the time that all of Manual's athletic teams had to "play up" - not that they were going to achieve any kind of greatness in any sport other than basketball regardless where they were classified.
But after one year of "playing up," Manual took a pass on the policy. Returning to small school (Class 2A) status for the 2007-2008 basketball season, the Rams reached the finals of the state tournament before losing to North Lawndale. Manual will play basketball in 2A again this winter.
Why bring this up?
If schools are really interested in crowning a true state champion in volleyball - or any sport for that matter - the new policy allows them to chose to "play up" without forcing their other sports teams to follow suit.
Not that bigger schools are always going to be better, but they do not have the option of "playing down."
Or the smaller schools can choose not to "play up" and let everybody argue about who really is the best team in Illinois. Just like they do every year in football.
Speaking of football, private, non-boundaried schools, which represent less than 20 percent of the membership in the Illinois High School Association, won four of eight (50 percent) state football championships last weekend.
The only private school to lose a state title game (Aurora Christian) lost to another private school (Bloomington Central Catholic). Since 2001, private schools have won 42 percent (27 of 64) of state football titles.
Once again, whispers for change are being heard from around the state.
Meanwhile, there have been no such calls for change in volleyball despite the fact that since the beginning of the IHSA state volleyball tournament in 1975, virtually half (35 of 71) of the state champions have been private schools.
Of course, four schools account for all but seven of the 35 private school volleyball titles -Mother McAuley (13), St. Francis (seven), Breese Mater Dei (five) and Quincy Notre Dame (three).
The winningest public schools? Downers Grove South, with state titles in 1996, 1999 and 2002, Breese Central (1996, 2005, 2007) and Freeburg (1979, 1982, 2008).