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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • 4A split: It's all about the arithmetic

  • The Kansas State High School Activities Association recently allowed class 4A to vote to divide itself into two divisions next year for volleyball, softball, baseball and basketball—and in football starting in 2014.Since that time, most of the reaction has been positive, given that the only schools that will be affe...
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  • The Kansas State High School Activities Association recently allowed class 4A to vote to divide itself into two divisions next year for volleyball, softball, baseball and basketball—and in football starting in 2014.
    Since that time, most of the reaction has been positive, given that the only schools that will be affected by the decision (the 64 schools in class 4A) voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal (42-22 if you’re counting.)
    There has still been grumbling from some quarters, however, as not everyone is in favor of the new protocol.
    There are five principal objections that have been raised to the new system. I would like to discuss each of them in turn.
    One: “The proposal will increase travel.” Ulysses is the only school west of Hutchinson that would be in division 4AI under the current numbers. Presumably, the objection here is that Ulysses would have to travel farther than it does now to participate in playoffs. However, I doubt that Ulysses has objections to increased travel. Located where they are, I doubt that travel distance is a consideration for them. They are basically used to being road warriors. They drive all the way into central Kansas to participate in regional competitions all the time already. (Anyway, if it DOES irritate Ulysses, that’s a mark in the proposal’s favor, as far as I’m concerned. Kidding.)
    More realistically, the travel objection is probably coming from the central Kansas 4As who are going to have to travel out to Ulysses in earlier rounds of playoffs than they have previously.  A Rose Hill, Circle, Buhler or Mulvane, say, may have to travel to Ulysses in the first round of  playoffs or for substate.
    Well, boo-hoo. Welcome to OUR world, big 4As. We’ve been doing that for years. (Driving to Ulysses or Hugoton or Colby or Goodland for playoffs/regionals.)  Suck it up.
    Two: “There is a question of where an eighth State football game or basketball tournament will be held, and whether enough top-notch officials will be available to work them.” In an earlier column, I answered this one, but to repeat myself… C’mon, you can’t find ONE more group of basketball or football officials to handle an extra State championship game? (Which is all you really need since everyone is already in the first round of playoffs.) If that’s the case, if good officials are THAT few and far between, then we already have a problem that needs to be addressed.
    And as far as venues go, does anyone think the 8-man teams who won their championships at Newton High School this year instead of at, say, a Division II college stadium are ready to throw back their trophies in disgust at the “insult” of having had to play their championship game at a high school? Please. It’s not as much about WHERE you get to play as much as it is about THAT you get to play.
    Page 2 of 3 - Three: “There will be a loss of income to some schools as there will be no bi-district football game to host, and no first-round home game to host in Sub-states.” Really? REALLY? You’re going to argue that a grossly unfair competitive situation should be maintained simply so that a few schools can generate a few dollars of income?  Does anyone seriously think an unfair system should be preserved just so the 32 schools who would host a first-round home game or bi-district football game can take in a few extra bucks?
    The amount of revenue that will be lost is not going to close anybody’s doors. USD 382s budget was about  $13.4 million in 2012-13. Let’s say 2000 people (a generous estimate) go to a first round game at $6 a head. That $12,000 is a drop in the bucket. Oh, I forgot. They’re going to buy popcorn there, too. But even doubling the amount of revenue doesn’t make it worth the price of preserving an unfair system, does it?
    And if schools were going to be put in a financial bind by denying them the income from a round of games, why would a school like Pratt High be totally in favor of the new system? The loss of revenue can’t be that big a deal.
    Four: “The divisions would be split based on each of the sports that are affected. Some schools may field baseball but not softball teams, which means that a school could be Division II for basketball and baseball, but Division I for football and softball.”
    This is easily the silliest of the objections that have been voiced. So what if a school is Division I in football and Division II in baseball, or whatever? Because of the 2-year scheduling thing in football, there are already schools who participate in one class in football and another class in other sports in a given year. That doesn’t seem to have caused any serious problems so far and there’s no reason to assume that any new problems would result under the new system.
    Five: The most serious objection to the 4A split is that “It will water down competition.” Or as one blogger put it, “This is a sad day for Kansas athletics. We will see a proliferation of teams and individuals who should not be competing at a state championship.”
    Kansas will now be presenting eight State championships in football, for example:  6A, 5A, 4AI, 4AII, 3A, 2A-1A, 8-man 1 and 8-man 2. Likewise basketball. For a state with less than 3 million people, that seems excessive, or so goes the argument.
    To me it comes down to a question of equity. It’s a trade-off. It seems that the choice is between fairness on the one hand and “competitive meaningfulness” on the other. Yes, it is sensible that having only 4 or 5 classes instead of 8 might make a State championship less “watered down”, more “meaningful.” The only way to redress that, of course, is to reduce the number of classes.
    Page 3 of 3 - But how do you do that fairly? You could combine 5 & 6A into a single class of 64 schools. Yeah, that’ll happen. Or you could go with the 48-48-48 proposal. That won’t happen either. 5 & 6A like their exalted position whereby ¼ of their members attend the State basketball or softball championships. It really comes down to arithmetic.
    It’s not really that smaller schools  can’t compete against larger schools. Been to the Pratt TOC lately? Think 6As want a piece of Hutch High football in years when they’re 5A? Been to the State track meet?
    Just for fun, I looked at this year’s State track meet results. Out of the 12 random track and field events I compared, 4A’s times/distances were better than 5A’s in 5 of them. Incidentally, the State track meet is probably the most accurate comparison among classes that exists: the same conditions and field on the same day. Not very much subjectiveness in the analysis.
    I acknowledge that the average 6A team in a given sport is probably better than the average, say, 1A team in that sport. But it isn’t a case where every school in every class can crush every school in the classes below it, or even that big schools within a class always dominate the smaller ones. To me, the argument about competitive fairness isn’t entirely about the idea that smaller schools can’t compete with bigger ones—although there is ample evidence to support the notion that the bigger schools within a division TEND to dominate the division.
    To me, it’s all about the arithmetic. What’s unfair is that 5 & 6A schools have TWICE the arithmetic chance of advancing to State competition as do 4, 3 and 2A.
     Since 5 & 6A are never going to voluntarily give up the system whereby they have a one in four shot of going to State, the only FAIR thing to do is to give 4As the same arithmetical shot.
    If it comes down to a trade-off between arithmetical equity and “competitive meaningfulness”, I’ll vote for arithmetical equity. If 5 & 6A want to do something about “competitive meaningfulness”, let THEM combine into one class, or go for 48-48-48. 4A is only asking for arithmetical fairness. Why should 4A have to suffer arithmetic inequity in the name of “competitive meaningfulness?”

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