Column: Holy War football state final is wholly unholy
Jesuit and Central Catholic will meet in an OSAA championship football game for the first time in history. But it's hard not to wonder whether their success comes on a level playing field.
This weekend, for the first time in OSAA history, Jesuit and Central Catholic will face off in a state-championship football game.
Itll be a meeting of the Portland metro areas two major private schools, a battle that many affectionately call the Holy War.
But theres something wholly unholy about it.
Although Jesuit and Central Catholic are fully sanctioned members of the states association for high school activities, do they really compete within the framework that exists for their athletic counterparts? Do they abide by the same rules? Do they have to?
This year, Jesuit defeated Canby in the first Class 6A semifinal Nov. 30 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland. Hours later, Central Catholic scored 83 points not a typo to thrash previously undefeated Tigard in the other semifinal.
Those outcomes alone dont prove anything. And yet its hard not to wonder whether theres a level playing field.
Cougars senior A.J. Schlatter, for one, wonders.
Not shocking the 2 biggest PRIVATE schools are in the state championship, he tweeted. I guess thats what recruiting gets you.
And I mean no disrespect to them.
It just doesnt seem fair.
To be fair, this Saturdays game will be just the second large-school football final featuring a private school since the OSAA created six athletic classes in 2006.
Jesuit will make an appearance in the finals for the first time since 2009. The Crusaders have not won it all since capturing back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.
Even more surprising, perhaps, is that Central Catholic will compete in the title game for the first time since in 60 years indeed, for the first time since Dwight D. Eisenhowers presidency. The Rams have only won two state titles in football in school history.
Of course, those are incomplete portraits of two consistently prominent powerhouses.
As of the end of the last school year, Jesuit had won a combined 119 team state championships across 23 athletic activities since 1967-68. In each of the last 22 years, the Crusaders have added at least one state-title trophy to their crowded cases. Over the last nine years, theyve won at least five championships each year.
Against Canby, Jesuits football team was appearing in the state semifinals for the ninth time in 10 years.
Central Catholic, too, has a rich athletic history (no pun intended). Its boys cross-country program has claimed seven of the last 11 state titles. Its volleyball program, which capped a three-peat in 2011, has appeared in four of the last five championship matches. Its girls basketball team snagged the 6A crown last year. Its boys squad lost in the finals.
On the football field, the Rams have reached the quarterfinals or beyond on 13 occasions, including in each of the last three seasons.
But its not just that Jesuit and Central Catholic have enjoyed frequent success in their athletic pursuits. Its how.
Canby and other public high schools compete with students from their own districts. The private schools welcome kids from all over the place. The student populations are assembled in fundamentally different ways.
The farm boys of Canby (against) the university of Jesuit, Schlatter tweeted before the semifinals.
Imagine, for a moment, that the University of Oregon can enroll athletes from throughout the state (you dont have to imagine it can already do that). Then imagine that Oregon State is only allowed to compete with athletes from Corvallis. Then imagine the schools competing in the same athletic classification for the same state titles.
It doesnt make much sense.
Of course, the enrollment figures for Jesuit and Central Catholic make the schools sporting achievements even more curious. Jesuit has fewer than 1,300 students. Central Catholic has fewer than 900.
But without the restrictions that keep most athletes at their home schools, Jesuit and Central Catholic can lure top prospects to their juggernaut programs year after year with or without recruiting.
Its not the fault of parents if they want to provide their children with private-school education.
Its not the fault of athletes if they want to compete at institutions that have the money and resources to help them achieve their goals.
Its not even the fault of the private schools and their coaches if they want to capitalize on their unique positions to attract all-star talent to their rosters.
But these are not developments that should be ignored by the OSAA, an organization whose stated mission is to guarantee equitable competition for Oregon high school students.
While the OSAA puts ample time and effort into creating leagues and postseason formats that aim to provide athletic opportunities for as many students as possible, it hasnt taken any substantive action to curb the unchecked power of Oregons large private schools.
It should be noted, of course, that the member schools of the OSAA control the rules that govern the association. So its up to them to rally for changes.
Perhaps Saturdays state-championship game between Jesuit and Central Catholic will inspire them to make such a push. Maybe the states public schools will eventually advocate for putting private schools in separate leagues, a change that has already occurred for prep athletics in other states.
Better yet, give them a class to themselves. Call it 7A. Jesuit and Central Catholic can battle in the state finals for all eternity. And it wont have to come at everyone elses expense.
Follow Jeff Goodman on Twitter.