Folks in southern Illinois are complaining in the wake of Seton Academy's overwhelming victory in the Class 2A basketball tournament.
They don't think it was fair for Seton, a Catholic school whose two best players transferred from another Catholic school, to be playing in 2A, that it was tantamount to give the Los Angeles Lakers a spot in the NCAA.
They were relieved when last year's Class 2A champion, North Lawndale, was moved to 3A this season based on its growing enrollment. But Seton, according to Chicago Sun-Times high school reporter Mike O'Brien, might be even better. In fact, they might be good enough to be ranked No. 1 in the Chicago area, regardless of class.
As far as small-school competition is concerned, Seton and DJ Cooper and Jordan Walker and Corbin Thomas can make a good case for being the best team in state history, in a class with the Marty Simmons-led Lawrenceville teams of the 1980s, McLeansboro with Brian Sloan in 1984 and Providence-St. Mel with Lowell Hamilton in 1985.
But that isn't the issue here. Hey, wasn't 1A and 2A supposed to be all about the small schools in southern Illinois? Wasn't that why the Illinois High School Association dumped the two-class system after 35 years? To give schools like Marshall and Massac County and Woodlawn and Lewistown and Annawan and Altamont and Crab Orchard and Sesser-Valier a chance for glory.
Looks like the IHSA will have to go back to the drawing board, to design another plan to make everybody happy, to present a trophy to everyone, to allow every school to make a trip to Peoria, to find a way to keep those darn private schools out of the mix. You know, those schools that recruit athletes from all over the county and reward them with free tuition and scholarships.
Public schools have enough problems without trying to legislate against private schools. And the IHSA, which admits it isn't equipped to police all the issues that impact on its programs, must rely on the integrity of principals who routinely sign off on transfers who illegally or unethically move from school to school for the purpose of competing in sports.
The system is broken, it says here, and it needs to be fixed. Not to the satisfaction of everyone, of course, because there is always someone who attempts to sneak around the rules, to gain an advantage, in high school, college or the pros.
But how about this? Is it too much to ask that a student/athlete who begins his or her freshman year at a high school must complete four years there. If the parents move to another town or school district within the area during that time, the kid still must attend the school that he enrolled in as a freshman.
That policy would put a crimp in the current popular game plan in which teammates on AAU teams decide to join each other on a high school team "so we can win a state championship together." That isn't what high school sports is supposed to be all about. And the practice shouldn't be condoned or encouraged.
Rather than expand fro two to four to eight classes to accommodate everybody--until now, to its credit, the IHSA has rejected the idea of conducting a separate state tournament for private schools--perhaps school administrators could prevent parents from trying to run the asylum.
As one old-time coach once told me: "High school sports would be wonderful without parents." After 50 years of covering high school sports in Illinois, I know what he meant.