NYSPHAA: Combining Teams for Athletic Participation: Part II

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Contributing Writer
Bill Burk

Here’s a line that appeared in a Sunday paper under High School Football Scores:
Timon 26, Riverside/International Prep/DaVinci/Lafayette/East/Performing Arts 0.
That’s right, the single school of Timon, shut out the six-city enterprise of RIPDLEPA (LEPARD PI? LAP PRIDE?? DIAL PREP???). It took two lines in the paper to report the score. How do you have try-outs for that team? How do you practice? How do you combine six mascots, like a toy in Sid Phillips room of horrors? Imagine being the announcer at the game. Imagine coming up with the school(s) cheer:
I say, “We are!” You say, “Riverside international prep davincilafayetteeastperformingarts!”
NYSPHAA Section VI allows schools to merge sports. You’ve seen it repeatedly in the past few years. Jim Riggs says he used to cover 23 football teams in the area. Now there are 16. Here’s how they determine classification when they merge: The schools with the higher(est) classification number will have a percentage of the other school(s) classification number added according to the graduated scale: Class AA = 50%, A = 40%, B = 30%, C = 30%, and D = 20%. I don’t think I’d be betraying a bias if I said I believe mergers should combine 100% of enrollments, and I don’t see the logic behind the scale, except that I believe it was developed for NYSPHAA to keep divisions filled, and has no bearing on fairness or competitive balance. You would almost think the scale would be flipped. Adding 50% of a very large school will almost always land them in the higher division, where they belong based on enrollment and fairness. Adding only 20% of a D-school (capped at 239 students) is going to add no more than 23 students which will more than likely keep them in the D-classification, but can add a significant number of athletes to a team. Moving ten players to ANY team in class D is going to be an extreme competitive advantage.
Check out the charts of Section VI Class C South and Class D football teams shown at the bottom of this article (take a few minutes, I’ll wait):
All but one merger should move to a higher classification based on total enrollment. The numbers are the numbers, and while they seem close enough (what’s 50 students between friends), you and I both know the chances of a school with 250 upperclassmen having twelve bigger, stronger, faster athletes is nowhere near the same as three schools having four EACH. This is especially true when big-roster sports like football and soccer compete for student-athletes. Most years every school has a finite number of competent players for every sport, it’s a fixed function of enrollment, available roster spots, and selection from youth sports programs. Of all the available athletes in a school (that number itself a product of parents, coaches, heritage and legacy), each school has only so many football players, only so many for soccer, cross country, etc. It’s not a simple matter of numbers, either. If you take all the soccer players from a smaller school and make them play football, you would have a much better team, and visa versa. In small schools there are only so many good athletes to go around. However, when you take all the football players from TWO schools, no matter the total enrollment, you simply have a better chance to field a stronger team. That seems relatively fair, as long as they compete against schools with at least the same relative enrollment, and same chance to find the same number of football or soccer or volleyball players. When you allow two schools to merge and continue to play in a lower classification, you tip the scales in favor of the combined schools unfairly.
In part III, let’s examine the arguments for mergers, and see if we can come up with a better system.


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To read more of Bill Burk’s reflections, astute observations and a rant or two on the wide world of sports, visit www. jamestowngazette.com and click on Bill Burk’s page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.