Sports commentary: Disjointed

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Why our private and public high schools don't mix

By Mike Forster

 Our high school sports run in parallel universes.

And, by definition, items that run in parallel neither cross nor touch.

I refer to the fact that public schools and private schools rarely meet each other on the fields or courts of play.

That is a huge lost opportunity.

As a result of this de facto segregation, you have schools playing some illogical foes.

Local teams wind up playing the far-away likes of Magna Vista or Bassett or Tunstall.  

Meanwhile schools such as Liberty Christian Academy, Roanoke Catholic and North Cross are left to play a slate that consists (almost) entirely of  private schools.

Let’s take Liberty Christian Academy, as an example.

By all accounts an excellent school, LCA has fielded some tremendous sports teams lately.

The school’s football team, in particular, has raised some eyebrows with its success.

Yet, you’re not likely to see LCA play a regular season game against an Amherst or a Brookville or a JF.  (LCA did scrimmage Amherst.)

North Cross, VES and Roanoke Catholic all field some very competitive teams.  Yet, if you’re a fan of a public school, you aren’t going to see any of those three teams.

Think about this.  What if the NCAA system worked to exclude private schools?

Here are some of the matchups that wouldn’t take place (with the private school listed first): 

Notre Dame-Michigan


Boston College-Va Tech

Miami-Florida State



Wake Forest-Virginia

Duke-N. Carolina

Absent private schools, the Big Ten would lose Northwestern, and would then consist of only, well, ten schools.  Seriously, it has 11 today, but that’s for another column.

The Pac-10 would lose a ton of prestige with the departure of USC and Stanford.

The ACC would resemble its original incarnation,  having been chopped back to eight teams with the loss of Wake, Duke, BC, and Miami. 

Just think of what a barren landscape of dysfunction we’d have if the college posture mimicked that of our high schools.

There are three chief drivers that minimize the cross-pollination of private and public schools at the preps level.

The first is spite.  What is at work here is a belief that some of the private schools are poaching the better athletes from some of the private schools.  Therefore, goes the logic, why should we reward those foxes by offering to play with them in our henhouses?

There is also a sentiment along the lines of, “If public schools aren’t good enough for these kids to play ON, why are they good enough to play AGAINST?”

The second has to do with rules.  Private schools have a lot more latitude when it comes to determining which of its students are eligible to play.  

Additionally, some rules that the private schools follow are in direct conflict with those of the VHSL schools.

My suspicion is that such rules are not nearly enough to overcome the small number of students that these private schools have enrolled.

The third issue is, to me, the crux of the matter.  The all-powerful VHSL points system allocates nothing to a team for playing a private school.  

Here’s something to mull over.  Gretna, playing the role of the great reconciler, played LCA in football earlier this season.  What did it get the Gretnans?  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.

For playoff purposes, it is as if the game never took place.

Gretna could have scheduled some patsy to pile up some playoff points.

Instead, it tried to think outside of the box and got zippo. That’s because it crossed the line.