Bishop Carroll won four state championships and came runner-up in five other state finals during the 2017-18 school year.
The Eagles finished in the top two in nine of the 21 interscholastic sports the Kansas State High School Activities Association offers. Bill Faflick, KSHSAA’s new executive director, said that’s great but it’s not the point.
“Our board of education does not pay an athletic director anywhere or a coach anywhere to go out and win championships,” Faflick said. “They want to be competitive, and that looks good, but what they really want is to have kids connected to school.”
Faflick said KSHSAA’s purpose is to have student-athletes achieve at a higher academic level, become good citizens and graduate — not to win. That is his first response when people complain about the current public/private entanglement, he said.
There are 28 private schools that compete under KSHSAA’s guard. There are about 327 public schools — meaning about 8.5 percent of KSHSAA member schools come from the private sector.
In the 2017-18 school year, public and private schools competed for 83 state championships across all sports and all classes. Private schools won 21 of them — more than 25 percent.
In the City League alone, there are seven public schools and two private. Carroll and Kapaun Mt. Carmel combined for 11 top two finishes. All of USD 259’s public high schools had two.
“When you compete for championships, that’s fabulous,” Faflick said. “There’s a lot of really good public schools in certain areas. There’s a lot of really good private schools in certain areas.”
That also translates to different sports.
No private school won a baseball state championship in the 2018 season. None won in softball, girls track and field, wrestling, boys swimming and diving or boys bowling, either.
But in boys basketball, private schools won the top three classifications in which they participate. There are no 6A private schools in Kansas, meaning classes 5A, 4A-Division I and 4A-Division II went to private schools. However, in all three title games, public schools were there to meet them.
In football, private schools won the top two classes in which they compete. In volleyball, they won two of the top three. And in girls basketball, boys track and field, boys cross country, girls golf, girls tennis, girls swimming and diving and girls bowling, private schools won the top class they entered.
But all of those statistics are countered with Faflick’s vision.
“There’s always going to be talk about public and private, and I understand that,” he said. “But bottom line is when you start the season, you have the same playing rules. A basket is worth either two or three points. A foul shot is worth one. You get five fouls. I get five fouls.
There have been public school dynasties through the years, Faflick noted. Liberal’s boys track and field team is perhaps the most dominant dynasty in Kansas history. Shawnee Mission Northwest had a run in cross country. And Wichita South won six titles in nine years in boys basketball.
There is a cyclical nature to high school sports. The St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Miege boys won their third straight basketball titles in 2018.
Faflick implied that those assailing the system should pump the brakes.
“To say that we’re totally broken, I’m not sure we’re totally broken,” he said. “But on the flip side, we don’t want people to feel like they don’t have a chance, so we want to make sure we do whatever we can to provide that equity.”
KSHSAA reclassified its member schools for the 2018-19 school year. Faflick said that was done in the spirit of equity, but said it certainly “isn’t the solution to all of those ills if that’s all that we care about, and it’s not.”
Other states, including Missouri, have implemented an enrollment multiplier to private schools in an effort to level the playing field.
A 1.5-times multiplier in Kansas would take Carroll from 5A, with 898 students, to 6A, at a theoretical 1,347 students. Trinity Academy and Independent would bump to 4A and 3A. And Kapaun and Collegiate would stay in 5A and 3A, respectively.
Because there are no 6A private schools, the door is open, but Faflick said there are problems with that model, too.
“Is that fair to the private schools?” he said. “Is that discriminatory? Because a lot of these schools are faith-based.”
Faflick said a lot of factors go into winning a state championship. He mentioned continuity with a coaching staff, booster support and offseason opportunities as a few. Although money and affluence can have an impact on some of those factors, it isn’t a nail in the coffin.
“State championships are not won based on a zip code,” Faflick said.
The conversation between public and private schools won’t end, and Faflick said he knows that. The argument can get tiresome, he said, because “there’s not a quick solution,” and championships are not the reason to play.
“I always hate the whole, ‘Public vs. private’ thing, because that indicates there’s a lot of animosity between them, and the reality is our private schools and our public schools are much more alike than they are different,” Faflick said.