Before I get all lathered up here I want to make it very clear that I am for every student athlete in this country to be able to enjoy the spirit of competition that should be afforded any child regardless of whether that competition involves sports, academics, music, exhibiting show animals, debate, or any other form. It is so important that kids learn how to compete and do it with dignity, no matter the outcome. It is one of those valuable life lessons.
During the regional tournaments week-end of the girls division I continued to scan the sports pages of all the papers that I could get my hands on to see how all the local teams were faring. It really caught my attention when I learned that the Goldthwaite Lady Eagles were playing a Dallas charter school for the regional championship and the right to represent their region at the state tournament in Austin.
I have been particularly interested in the Lady Eagles since Coach Angie Hermesmeyer has taken the reins as the head coach. The fact that she (formerly Angie Ogletree) played for the Lady Longhorns and Jody Conradt in Austin was enough to gain my interest at another level. Throw in the fact that she was an outstanding roundballer and trackster (1993 Class 2A State Champion 300 meter hurdles) in the Texas panhandle at Panhandle High School, my old neck of the woods, and I really got interested.
Plus the Lady Eagles as is the case in most years was also on the Comanche Maidens basketball schedule. I began following the team through the playoffs. It was great to see a team progress as those girls had through a season. And now they had a chance to play in the regional finals. I was pumped but was left scratching my head when I learned that their opponent would be none other than Dallas Triple A Academy.
Dallas! Really! A team from Dallas playing in Class A. Something just wasn’t right about this picture. The scrappy Goldthwaite team held their own but lost by a dozen points or so. I was sad for the girls but more than that I was sad for the spirit of competition which is and should forever be the foundation of high school competition, or any other level for that matter.
The following weekend as I was scanning through the boy’s regional brackets I noticed that the Dallas Triple A Academy boys team was in Abilene, and just like their girl counterparts, competing in Class A. Once again I had bad vibes!
I knew that the Lady Eagles had given the girls team all they wanted and that maybe the kids from Dallas were just a little more talented. So I was confident that playing in the same regional tournament with the Dee Paul led Monday Moguls and the Hagen Hutchinson led Stamford Bulldogs that the boys from Dallas were probably going to get their clocks cleaned by one or the other.
Munday drew them first and when I read that Triple A had beaten them rather handily just figured that Texas Tech football and track recruit Paul had probably fouled out, gotten hurt or had some other misfortune. That wasn’t the case! The boys from Dallas just had that much more talent.
I still had hopes that the Midwestern University football signee, Hagen Hutchinson and his Bulldog teammates would pick up a victory in the finals and head to Austin to try and win a state basketball championship just as they had in football. Didn’t happen!
They too were not just beaten but completely dominated by the kids from Dallas. Both Paul and Hutchinson are incredible athletes in just about any sport that happens to be in season. They played on basketball teams that had other really talented athletes with them. In fact they may not have been the dominant players on the hardwood. It simply didn’t matter though because the Charter school from Dallas ruled the day.
Let me say that I don’t have any facts here so I will not get into all the legalities of how a Charter school from Dallas ended up in Abilene in a Class A regional tournament. I will say that I have enough confidence in the University Interscholastic League, the governing body of Texas high school competition, that I don’t believe they just rolled over and laid out the welcome mat for all comers.
Even though the UIL has its own team of legal experts, I am sure that they were in a lose lose situation when it came to charter school eligibility. And maybe that is okay if that is what is best for kids! My question is: what are the rules for charter school and the boundaries from which they can draw students. I am sure that the enrollment figures are correct but are those charter schools subject to district boundary lines?
I can’t believe that this won’t be a subject of rather heated debate in the UIL circles. Hopefully we can learn more at that time. And once again let me reiterate what I said in the beginning and that is that I hope that any student who loves to compete can do so in their high school setting. But somehow I am just not buying the fact that all of a sudden a conglomeration of high school basketball talent just one day showed up at Triple A Academy.
In our community of Comanche Texas we have a charter school that competes within the UIL and I always hope for their success but I have complete confidence in their administration and coaching staff to live diligently by the rules and the “spirit of competition”. So far they have not disappointed and doubt they ever will. I wish that I had the same feeling about Triple A.
Somehow that pool of talent is just a little broader in the city of Dallas than in Comanche. I hope that the experience of winning the big one has been very rewarding and fulfilling for the Triple A kids. If it has served the purpose and intent of high school athletics as designed by the UIL then I am proud for the kids. I just hope that in the future, however, if the cities of Dallas, Goldthwaite, Stamford, and Munday all end up in a TAKS or STARR question asking which one doesn’t belong that any reader including the UIL will know which one is the correct answer.
My intended message here is not to exclude any school or any child of the right to compete. I do believe though that there are different circumstances surrounding public schools as opposed to charter and private schools and that each of those should have their own league and their own set of rules. I for one believe that leagues such as TAPS is alive and well and probably has just as healthy a competitive level as the UIL.
I also believe in interleague play in the non-district schedules. It should be the prerogative of each school to schedule a more difficult opponent from another league if they believe that it could benefit their team. I will forever believe when competing for the big trophy, no matter what the league, that the competition should be as balanced and fair as possible. I just can’t make myself believe what happened in Austin this year and throughout the season bodes well for the spirit of competition among student athletes.