Apparently it was Rufus Miles, an aide to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, who first said:  “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”

I often think about that when I am meeting with an individual or group whose opinions may differ from my own.  Doing so tempers my expectations before the meeting as well as my impatience during the meeting.

There are a multitude of factors that affect one’s situation, that is, one’s seat at the table.  In our work, for example, we’ve come to anticipate that the opinions of small schools may differ from those of large schools when it comes to many policies, procedures or programs, and that urban and rural schools may differ, and Upper Peninsula and Lower, as well as some public and private.

It is because of these differences that an organization like the MHSAA was deemed necessary, was created by the schools themselves, and continues to serve them.  A voluntary association of schools to help develop the consensus for compromises that are necessary for statewide competition that has some semblance of fairness, notwithstanding the inherent advantages that some schools inevitably have over others.

There are very many exceptions, but as a rule, money is the single most reliable predictor of strong athletic programs.  Schools and/or families that have more money are likely to see more success than schools and/or families that have less. 

How the terrible financial condition of our state and its schools will affect this general rule isn’t known for sure at this time; but it is reasonable to anticipate that the result will be that the rich will get richer, the poor poorer.  As schools have less to spend on sports and must depend more on outside funding, those who enjoy the most outside support will fare even better in athletic competitions.

This presents a challenge to an organization striving to promote fair and equitable play.  What is reasonable and possible to do to “level the playing field” for those who are inherently disadvantaged?  In the meritocracy which is competitive athletics, what can be done?  Professional sports leagues legislate for parity.  Should we?  Could we?

Doubtful the answer to either question is “yes,” but it’s not wasted time or energy for high school sports leaders to keep rolling the topic over in their minds and meetings.

Posted in: Finance


# paul
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 12:02 AM
You can try to legislate it, but it's doubtful you would succeed. The law of unintended consequences would no doubt play a role. People will always adapt or find a loop hole to give them an advantage. Can you enforce the rules you have now?
As a parent and coach I have seen the changes to high school athletics and education over the years. School of choice is a perfect example of legislating a problem to level the playing field in academics. Not only did it not work, it made the system worse. In my opinion it contributed to existing problems in athletics such as recruiting and gives coaches and schools more incentives to bend the rules and to look the other way.
To level the playing field you would have to control the amount of money booster could contribute, how much money was raised by local bond issues , stop schools from conditioning kids during school hours (lifting for phys ed.) and put a limit on how many kids they can protect academically in the special ed. programs.
Money is the issue. Schools are using the money from sports to keep the doors open. But because of this, academics have become the extracurricular activity. The stakes have become to high. High school athletics are quickly becoming the new collage sports. High money stakes disguised as amateur athletics.

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