Columnist Matt Calkins | The recent forfeits from Archbishop Murphy’s opponents have brought the advantages private schools have into the spotlight. Attracting players from a larger area creates a competitive disadvantage.
CBS, the BBC and The Washington Post have all done stories about it. The predicament that is Archbishop Murphy football has become international news.
Completely overmatched physically, the past three teams on the Wildcats’ schedule have forfeited in lieu of enduring a blowout — and the fear is that it is going to keep happening.
So how do you fix a fiasco that has so engrossed the general public?
Easy. You make it a private matter.
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The time has come for the top private high schools in the Puget Sound area to play in the same league for football. The private-to-public imbalance has become too lopsided not to consider such a change. Will everybody like it? No. But they’ll eventually learn to.
If you need a CliffsNotes version of what’s going on with Archbishop Thomas Murphy — known colloquially as ATM — here it is. The Wildcats have a 1,500-pound starting offensive line and several college-level recruits at other positions. They are playing in the Cascade League, which is a Class 2A/1A hybrid comprised primarily of small-town schools.
They reportedly requested to move up to the WesCo 3A League but were denied, rendering them baseball bats in a league full of piñatas. And their would-be opponents have wanted no part of the beatings.
In its nonleague opener, ATM topped Issaquah 73-0, which was the score at halftime. It then put a 59-0 whooping on Bishop Blanchet, which made the 3A state semifinals last year. A 38-0 victory over fellow private-school power King’s followed — and then the no thank yous began.
Citing safety concerns, South Whidbey, Sultan and Granite Falls all scratched their games vs. ATM. Some think the forfeiters are simply trying to avoid humiliation, but given the premium placed on concussions and other health issues in football, the concerns are legitimate.
It’s an unprecedented situation in the state of Washington, but also one that highlights a long-known truth: Private schools have an inherent advantage on the football field.
First off, they have a 50-mile radius from which they can draw athletes. They are also able to offer students academic scholarships. Amazingly, these academic scholars tend to be 260-pound beasts who eat steel plates for dessert, which is why private schools almost always reach the playoffs.
It’s no wonder, then, that leagues such as the WesCo might be reluctant to open their doors to a school like ATM, knowing they’d likely be handing the Wildcats the league title, too. The solution? Something like this.
Create a seven-team league consisting of private schools for football only. The teams would include O’Dea, Seattle Prep, Bellarmine Prep, Kennedy Catholic, Eastside Catholic, Archbishop Murphy and Bishop Blanchet. Every school listed has had recent success on the football field, and nobody could complain about private-school advantages.
Next, for the playoffs, put those that qualify into either the Class 3A or 4A field. Most of the aforementioned schools already compete in one of those divisions, and Archbishop Murphy should.
The system isn’t all that different from what you see in the Trinity League in Southern California. Private powers such as Mater Dei, Servite, Orange Lutheran and Rancho Santa Margarita compete against one another during the regular season, then take on public powers such as Centennial and Long Beach Poly in the playoffs.
Wait a minute, you’re telling me that if my kid plays for Bellarmine Prep, I have to drive from Tacoma all the way to Everett for ATM?
Yes, but just once every other year, and it’s for a 7 p.m. start. Remember, this realignment is for football only.
Why just football?
Because it’s a different animal. You don’t need a parent driving all over the area every week for 5:30 p.m. soccer games, but three Friday nights every fall is doable. Plus, there’s the safety aspect. Losing 105-8 in basketball is embarrassing, but it wouldn’t be a risk to a student-athlete’s health.
OK, but right now my team makes the playoffs every year. Why would I want to give that up?
Because it would be far more rewarding to reach the postseason in a league this competitive than it would be stomping over a bunch of cupcakes. This is what high-school football should be — every win euphoric and every loss crushing. Don’t worry, the kids will get over the latter quickly.
But I like the idea of playing my neighboring schools. There’s some serious geographic pride there.
Well, you can always schedule a neighbor during nonleague play, but trust me, the rivalries with your league opponents will get real heated real fast. I went to a private Catholic school in Southern California, and our most intense games weren’t necessarily with the schools around the corner. We learned to loathe our league counterparts regardless of distance, and the atmosphere didn’t suffer — mainly because the games were always competitive.
Look, there is no easy answer to this public-vs.-private problem. And one has to be careful to completely overhaul league structures because of a few football teams.
But if the private schools mentioned wanted to make something like this happen, they could. It’s a private solution that could benefit the public.
Tale of the tape
|How ATM sizes up against the teams that forfeited to it.|
|ATM||S. Whidbey||Sultan||Granite Falls|
|Total over 200 pounds||18||6||7||3|
|Source: Rosters listed on maxpreps.com|