Defining the Problem

First, you must understand a very IMPORTANT NUMBER.  According to the MHSAA, 14% of member schools are private schools.  That makes the following numbers proof positive that there is an unequal playing field in MHSAA tournaments.  If you think the MHSAA should change the playoff structure, sign the Fair Playoffs Petition, or better yet, get your school board to pass the Fair Playoffs Resolution.

All Sports (Data inclusive of the winter 2018 sports season)

  • Since 2000, 30% of all state titles were won by private schools.  That is more than twice as many titles as they should have won statistically.
  • Since 2000, 42% of state titles in the bottom half of divisions (based on enrollment) were won by private schools.  That is three times more titles than they should have won statistically. Private schools won 44% of the state titles in the lowest division in each sport.
  • Since 2000, the highest percentage of titles won by private schools was 41% in 2017.
  • These numbers indicate that private schools have some sort of advantage that public schools don’t have, and therefore the MHSAA needs to consider more than enrollment in pairing up schools for the playoffs.

Fall Sports

Boy’s Cross Country (Lower Peninsula)

  • Since 2000, 14% of state titles were won by private schools.  This is the number they statistically should win based on the percentage of private schools in the state.

Girl’s Cross Country (Lower Peninsula)

  • Since 2000, 26% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • A private school has won the last 3 Division 4 championships.

Football

  • Since 2000, 41% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • The divide between public and private schools is getting worse. Since 2011, private schools have won 53% of the state titles!
  •  Of teams with 5 or more state titles since 2000, 6 of the 9 are private schools.  Those 6 teams have 35 state titles between them.
  •  Lopsided contests between private and public schools are not uncommon.  Two of the biggest blowouts in state finals history have been private schools thrashing public schools.  In the 2001 D5 title game, Jackson Lumen Christi beat an undefeated Livonia Clarenceville team 49-0.  In the 2011 D7 title game, Saginaw Nouvel led an undefeated Pewamo-Westphalia team 56-12 at half time!  In 2014 Warren DeLaSalle beat Muskegon Mona Shores 44-8.
  • Private schools can still be successful playing against larger schools.  In 2003, the private school Detroit DePorres won the Division 8 State Championship.  They had an enrollment of 248 students.  During the regular season they beat the eventual Division 1 State Champion Detroit Catholic Central 33-27.  Detroit Catholic Central had an enrollment of 1,996 students.

Girl’s Golf ( Lower Peninsula)

  • Since 2000, 25% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • Since a 4th division was created in 2009, private schools have won 6 of 9 state titles in that division.

Boy’s Soccer

  • Since 2000, 57% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • Private schools have won the last 9 state titles in Division 3.
  • Private schools have won 13 of the last 14 state titles in Division 4.  The one public school winner was a public charter school.  In fact, in the past 11 years, that pubic charter school was the only public school to even appear in the state finals in Division 4.

Girl’s Swimming & Diving (Lower Peninsula)

  • Since 2000, 30% of state titles were won by private school.

Boy’s Tennis

  • Since 2000, 41% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • Private schools have won the last 10 Division 3 titles.
  • Private schools have won the last 9 Division 4 titles.

Volleyball

  • Since 2000, 39% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • Private schools have won 11 of the last 12 class D state titles. Nine of the 12 were won in 3 sets.

Winter Sports

Boy’s Basketball

  • Since 2000, 29% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • In Class D, private schools have won 10 of the last 19 championships.

Girl’s Basketball

  • Since 2000, 42% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • In Class B, private schools have won 14 of the last 18 championships.

Boy’s Bowling

  • Since 2000, 15% of state titles were won by private schools.

Girl’s Bowling

  • Since 2000, 0% of state titles were won by private schools.  In only 4 of 28 sports did the private schools win less than the number of state titles than they should have statistically.

Competitive Cheer

  • Since 2000, 9% of state titles were won by private schools. In only 4 of 28 sports did the private schools win less than the number of state titles than they should have statistically.
  • A private school has won Division 3 in each of the past 5 years.

Girl’s Gymnastics

  • Since gymnastics only has 1 division in the upper peninsula and 1 in the lower peninsula, and since multiple schools combine to have a program, gymnastics statistics were not included.

Hockey

  • Since 2000, 53% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • In the smallest division, division 3, private schools have won 15 of the last 19 state titles.

Boy’s Skiing

  • Since 2000, 3% of state titles were won by private schools.  In only 4 of 28 sports did the private schools win less than the number of state titles than they should have statistically.

Girl’s Skiing

  • Since 2000, 15% of state titles were won by private schools.

Boy’s Swimming & Diving (Lower Peninsula)

  • Since 2000, 22% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • Private schools have won the  Division 3 titles in each of the past five years.s.

Wrestling

  • Since 2000, 8% of state titles were won by private schools. In only 4 of 28 sports did the private schools win less than the number of state titles than they should have statistically.
  • The only private school to have won a wrestling title since 2000, is Detroit Catholic Central who has won 5 titles. In 2018, they beat Brighton 57 to -1.

Spring Sports

Baseball

  • Since 2000, 40% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • In 2016 private schools won all 4 state titles.
  • Private schools have won the last 7 Division 3 state titles.

Boy’s Golf (Lower Peninsula) 

  • Since 2000, 43% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • Private schools have won 11 of the last 13 Division 4 titles.

Girl’s Golf (Lower Peninsula) 

  • Since 2000, 28% of state titles were won by private schools.

Boy’s Lacrosse

  • Since 2005, 73% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • A private school has won all 13 of the Lacrosse state titles in Division 1.

Girl’s Lacrosse

  • Since 2005, 23% of state titles were won by private schools.

Girl’s Soccer

  • Since 2000, 54% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • Private schools have won the last 16 Division 3 state titles.
  • Private schools have won the last 8 Division 4 state titles.

Softball

  • Since 2000, 22% of state titles were won by private schools.

Girl’s Tennis

  • Since 2000, 43% of state titles were won by private schools.
  • Private schools have won 12 of the last 13 titles in Division 3.
  • Private schools have won 15 of the 14 titles in Division 4.
  • Since 2000, public schools have only appeared in the finals 5 times in Division 4.

Boy’s Track & Field

  • Since 2000, 15% of state titles were won by private schools.

Girl’s Track & Field

  • Since 2000, 16% of state titles were won by private schools.

Sources: The MHSAA

Double check my math on the Raw Data page.

 

More School of Choice Leads to Less Public School Championships

Proponents of maintaining status quo for the MHSAA playoff system, where private schools represent just 14% of all schools but win 30% of the state championships, often cite Michigan’s School of Choice law as a reason they believe the current playoff system is fair.  However, a comprehensive look at the data debunks that assumption.

In 1996, Governor Engler signed the first School of Choice law in Michigan. The law allowed students to move within their intermediate school district. In 1999, that law was expanded to allow students to move to districts outside their intermediate school district.  In the year 2000, our baseline year for the Fair Playoffs initiative, 26,025 students were School of Choice students.  In 2009, the number of School of Choice kids at neighborhood public schools or charter schools was over 240,000, by 2015 that number ballooned to over 275,000 students, 23% of all public school kids.  However, as School of Choice has increased, private schools have begun winning a greater share of state championships.  The lowest rate of championships won by private schools was 20% in 2002, while the highest rate was 41% in 2017, the last year that we have complete data.  If we look at the 5 year trends since the year 2000, private schools won 26.4% of state titles, whereas in the most recent 5 year period private schools won 33.2% of state titles.

While we cannot be sure about why private schools are winning more than double the number of titles they should be winning statistically, and while we don’t know why that number is accelerating, we do know that the current system is outdated.  We have access to more information than ever.  We are capable of using multiple variables to solve complex problems.  Yet, the MHSAA continues to use just one variable, enrollment, to determine playoff groupings.  While kids have School of Choice, school districts are stuck with the complacent Michigan High School Athletic Association, who has a monopoly on the high school playoffs in Michigan.  It appears the only way to get the MHSAA to change, short of legislative action, is for a critical mass of school districts to pass the Fair Playoffs Resolution.  On behalf of public school children, please ask your school board to support this resolution and send a copy to us and directly to the MHSAA.

Percent of State Championships won by Private Schools since 2000

 

How States Institute Competitive Balance.

    • Some states separate public and private schools for the playoffs.  Virginia, Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland all have some form of separate playoffs for public and private schools.
    • Some states have a multiplier.  Private schools, or other schools with similar advantages, have their enrollment number increased.  This keeps public schools and private school playing each other, but most private schools, and potentially some public schools depending on the system, have to play in higher divisions.  Arkansas (1.75), Georgia (1.5), Illinois (1.65), Missouri (1.35), and Ohio have multipliers for the playoffs.  The number in the parenthesis represents the number that you multiply the school’s enrollment number by. Click on the state to learn more.
    • At least one state, Indiana, reclassifies teams based on past tournament success.
    • At least one state, Oregon, reduces enrollment by .25 for each student on free and reduced lunch..

Why we Shouldn’t Get Caught Up in the “Why.”

Too often when we discuss why private schools are winning 2 to 3 times as many state titles as they should statistically, the debate becomes personal and people chime in with their anecdotal evidence.  The most common complaint I hear from supporters of playoff fairness is that private schools recruit, and private school parenst can afford pricey summer camps and private lessons.  The most common defense I hear from those who want to keep things status quo, often people association with private schools, is that this is just “sour grapes” and that teams that don’t win titles need to get better coaches and get their players to work harder.  Those statements are often insulting depending on whose ears they fall on.  In reality, there are a lot of reasons that this imbalance  occurs.

The “why” is disputable, the fact that an imbalance is occurring is not. Therefore, the “why” distracts us from the “what.”  What are we going to do about this?  Those of us that support a fair system need to spend our energy lobbying the MHSAA, member schools, informing the public, and encouraging the coaches association and other entities to join us on this journey.  If you want to help, please approach your school board and ask them to sign the Fair Playoffs Resolution. Also, be sure to sign our online petition.