Ron Miller feels that he helped build about the best West York High football team possible, one of the best in the state.
And he still didn’t own a chance.
At least not beyond the District 3 playoffs.
In 2012, Miller’s undefeated Bulldogs ran into Bishop McDevitt’s buzzsaw in the district title game, losing 21-10. McDevitt, a perennial football power, draws players from across the Harrisburg region because it’s a private or non-boundary school.
But the equality issue goes beyond that, Miller said. Even if West York could have somehow beat McDevitt, it never would have survived what came next in the PIAA playoffs: Erie Cathedral Prep.
The Ramblers are an even more powerful private school that draws players from across state lines. They’ll bring a 28-game win streak into next season.
“You look at these schools, and it seems all their athletes are going Division I,” said Miller, who now leads the Dallastown football program. “I had teams at West York that were state championship-caliber teams … but we would have gotten killed by Erie Cathedral Prep.
“It’s just not a level playing field, and it’s getting more ridiculous as the years go by. You have no chance beating those teams and that’s hard to swallow some times.”
Plenty of local coaches and administrators agree, just like their counterparts throughout the state. While the issue of unfair competition between private and public schools has simmered for years, it appears ready to boil over in some places.
This comes as private school teams have won nearly 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s boys and girls state titles over the past three years. In boys’ basketball, private or charter schools won nine of the past 12 state titles, and many of them in a breeze.
A recent survey conducted by District 7’s Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) revealed that 86 percent of coaches there want to divide the playoff system for public (boundary) and private (non-boundary) teams.
Results of a similar survey in the Erie-based District 10 were released this week: Of 365 public school respondents (coaches and administrators), 354 said they believe non-boundary schools own a competitive advantage; 338 were in favor of separate tournaments.
Coaches and administrators in the YAIAA say the public/private disparity becomes a significant issue during district and state playoffs — particularly against teams in and around Philadelphia. Most polled in York and Adams counties are in favor of separate playoffs, as well.
Meanwhile, the state’s governing body of high school sports, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), says their hands are tied on the playoff issue. Legislation brought the public and private schools together in 1972, meaning new legislation is needed to tear them apart.