A rule designed to close the competitive gap between Oklahoma private and public high schools could be in for tweaking in the coming months.
The committee formed to study the issue will report to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association’s board of directors in its Aug. 7 meeting, OSSAA director David Jackson confirmed Wednesday.
Many suggest that Rule 14, implemented in 2012, has been an almost total failure in cutting down perceived advantages private schools have over public schools in athletic competition.
Others aren’t so sure. The OSSAA’s eight-member committee chaired by Adair athletic director Brad Rogers found that Rule 14 has been effective in some sports and not so effective in others.
“Probably the most important things we took from our meetings is that it seems to be leveling the field in some sports and in some sports it has not improved the situation and maybe even made it worse for the public schools to compete,” Rogers said.
Football and baseball, two of the sports with the most participation statewide, have seen little perceived dominance by private schools, but that isn’t the case for other sports, Rogers said.
While no specific recommendations have been formed, Rogers said, the committee might recommend tweaking Rule 14 pertaining to specific sports and not all sports. Rogers said he preferred not to say at present what sports might need tweaking.
Rule 14 mandates that a private school enjoying prolonged success in its normal classification level must compete at a higher level for a time. Prolonged success is defined as being among the final eight teams in postseason play (generally, reaching the state tournament) twice in a three-year span.
Blanchard superintendent Jim Beckham, a leading opponent of Rule 14, has had three proposed changes shot down by the OSSAA in the past 16 months. In his private blog, “My Back Page With Jim Beckham,” he urges administrators to attend the Aug. 7 board meeting.
“Be there or be square ... I know I will be,” Beckham wrote.
In January, the OSSAA nixed a Beckham proposal that would have required all private schools located in a metropolitan area — such as Bishop Kelley, Cascia Hall, Metro Christian and Holland Hall in Tulsa — to compete at the 6A Division II level in football and at the 6A level in all other sports.
Beckham’s plan was voted down 14-0. But Jackson promised at the same meeting to appoint a committee to study the issue. A similar committee in 2016 led to changing the rule’s definition of prolonged success from three times in five years to two times in three years.
Rogers’ committee was divided equally between representatives from public and private schools. They met four times to study data showing state championship histories in the various sports over the eight years prior to, and the eight years following, implementation of Rule 14.
Bishop Kelley athletic director Lance Parks said he was impressed by the spirit of cooperation among the eight committee members. He was also impressed by the amount and quality of the data.
“I would say the meetings were significantly fruitful,” Parks said. “The data shed some light on where the rule has been effective in the past and where it might need to go to be more effective in the future.”
Rogers said the OSSAA is likely to seek input on proposed changes during its annual area meetings in October.