David Ribbens has been an educator at the high school and college levels for 32 years, including 23 years at Trinity Christian College and the last eight years as athletic director at University of Chicago High School. So even though his school doesn't field a football team, he is qualified to discuss the controversial subject of the multiplier.
After months of research, Ribbens is convinced the Illinois High School Association's decision in 2005 to apply a 1.65 enrollment multiplier to all non-boundaried member schools simply doesn't add up. He believes it is fundamentally unfair and he is proposing a change in the IHSA by-laws to eliminate the mutiplier "because the concept of placing a higher value of one student over another student is fundamentally wrong."
Ribbens has gotten the IHSA's attention.
Ribbens' plan is based on statistics, not emotions. He argues that the multiplier isn't doing what it was supposed to do. Comparing success ratio of non-boundaried or private or Catholic schools five years before and five years after the multiplier was introduced, Ribbens found that of teams that advanced to the state championship game in 15 sports, 25.5 percent appeared prior to 2005 and 30.7 percent appeared afterward.
"The multiplier affects too many schools unjustly because the IHSA makes the assumption that because a school is unboundaried, it is more successful in athletics," Ribbens said. "That isn't the case. Remember, some schools (in the Chicago Public League) are unboundaried, too. The multiplier is about recruiting and success. This issue should be about educational philosophy."
Ribbens proposes a new system used to move teams up in class to be based on their finish in the state years in the previous year. The top eight teams would move up one class in all bracketed team sports but football. In football, the top eight would move up one class and the final four would move up two classes for one year.
"It makes more sense for teams that demonstrate the ability to compete at the next level to be given the opportunity to do so," Ribbens said. "All 146 non-boundaried schools do not have the playing proficiency to compete a class above. This new measure rewards the few teams that cann play and compete at the next class level."
Ribbens discussed his findings and his proposal at an Aug. 27 meeting with IHSA executive secretary Marty Hickman and associate executive secretary Kurt Gibson. While they continue to insist that the multiplier is leveling the playing field between public and private schools, they revealed the IHSA is conducting a study of its own on the merits of the multiplier over the last five years. Their rationale is non-boundaried schools have an advantage of recruiting over a larger area.
Ribbens' proposal will be discussed in town hall meetings in the fall and will be voted upon in December. Ribbens is optimistic. He is reminded that 82 percent of boundary schools in Illinois feel they aren't getting a fair chance. He believes his plan is a good alternative to the multiplier. He hopes they will take the time to thoroughly read his report and objectively compare the facts.
"This is a philosophical issue for me," he said. "It doesn't affect us in a particular sport in a a particular year but it affects all of the students and all of the schools regardless of how a team does in a particular year. The multiplier hasn't proven to be the answer. It is time to make a change."