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No answers to Class A controversy

June 27, 2018 GMT

Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.

Here are the opinions du jour.

• I see both sides of the controversy concerning Class A high schools in West Virginia. It is growing increasingly difficult for public Class A teams to compete for state championships.

That’s why there was a celebration among fans and media alike recently when a public school, Moorefield, defeated a private school, Wheeling Central, 4-3, for the Class A baseball state championship.

It’s also why there was a proposal to form a separate class for the nine private schools. In fact, school officials voted 100-24 in favor of establishing a fourth class of competition — Private.

But the governing body of West Virginia high school athletics — the Secondary School Activities Commission — defeated the proposal by a resounding 6-1 vote.

The reason? All nine Class A private schools have religious affiliations, which would open a legal Pandora’s Box for discrimination. So, what’s the answer?

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There really isn’t one.

On the surface, it doesn’t appear that the private schools should have such a markedly large advantage over their fellow Class A public schools. After all, 27 of the 45 public schools have larger male enrollments than the largest private school — Wheeling Central with 257.

Locally, Huntington St. Joe ranks fourth among private schools with a male enrollment of 152.

But drop below the surface and one very significant word is present and must be accounted for — recruiting. It is legal for private schools to recruit. Public schools must adhere to their particular districts, but not private schools.

That is the crux of the matter.

For example, when I was attending South Charleston High School a 6-foot-5 friend of mine was a starter for Charleston Catholic’s basketball team. My buddy lived in South Charleston.

The ability of private schools to recruit isn’t just an equalizer. On the contrary, it has proven to be an un-equalizer.

Just look at the results from the last 17 Class A state boys championship games. Only two public schools have won titles — Tug Valley in 2013 and Magnolia in 2015.

Why, only six public schools even advanced to the championship game. That means 11 of the title games were private school vs. private school.

The trend actually began when Wheeling Central dropped from Class AA status to Class A and won its first Single-A basketball championship in 1996. Since then, the dominance of private schools in Class A has grown and grown.

In the last 17 years, Wheeling Central has won eight Class A boys basketball state championships, Charleston Catholic three and one apiece by Huntington St. Joe, Parkersburg Catholic, Weirton Madonna and Clarksburg Notre Dame.

On the public school side only Tug Valley and Magnolia have won titles.

Hence, the controversy.

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The only solution would be for the private schools to voluntarily agree to playing in their own classification in state tournaments. I don’t expect that to happen.

• Nate McPeek is a true son of Marshall.

On June 14, the former Thundering Herd star offensive tackle and, now, high school coach, brought the Frederick Douglass team from Lexington, Kentucky, to visit the Marshall plane crash memorial in Spring Hill Cemetery.

While they sat in front of the memorial, McPeek shared what it means to play for Marshall. I am proud to call Nate my friend.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.