Kansas high school sports classifications may get major overhaul

Could be 1st major changes in nearly 40 years

TOPEKA, Kan. - The classifications for Kansas high school sports may get its first major overhaul in nearly 40 years to help level the competitive playing field.

Bishop Miege High School in Shawnee Mission, for example, won their four Class 4-A Division 1 football playoff games by combined scores of 218 to 27 on the way to the Stags third straight state title.

In Kansas, high schools are put in sports classes based only on enrollment.

Bishop Miege, with roughly 700 students, had only one season loss.

It was 35-28 on the road at Blue Valley. They were the state runner-up in Class 6A, the class for the largest Kansas schools.

Blue Valley has nearly 1600 students, more than double Bishop Miege.

The Stags crushed Basehor-Linwood High School in the football state semi-finals 52-0.

Basehor-Linwood alum and current 20-year-old college student Paige Pruitt believes her alma mater and other public schools are at a decided disadvantage having to play Bishop Miege to earn a state title.

"I just don't like the unfairness," said Pruitt. "I just want like equity for everybody," she said.

Pruitt did her own research looking at seven major team sports for boys and girls.

Those sports include football, boys and girls basketball, volleyball, baseball and boys and girls soccer.

Bishop Miege is the current state title holder in five of those sports.

In her research, Pruitt found private schools like Bishop Miege make up only six percent of Kansas 4A schools.

But in the last eight years, private schools won 71 percent of state titles in those sports.

Pruitt believes one major reason is most public schools can only enroll students from set geographic boundaries.

Most private schools have no boundaries.

Bishop Miege, for example, has students from throughout the metro area.

"It's going to change because it's been like this for 40 years and people are getting tired of it," Pruitt said.

"Is there some simple, easy, obvious answer? Because if there is, we haven't found it," said Kansas State High School Activities Association Executive Director Gary Musselman.

He says a 19 member committee has been looking for answers for over a year as part of a complete classification overhaul.

It would be the first one since 1979.

Musselman says that committee has examined more than 50 proposals.

Missouri for example multiplies private school enrollment by 1.35 to classify sports.

However, current Kansas law allows high school sports classes by enrollment only.

"So, there's no smoke and mirrors in that respect, easy to understand," Musselman said.

When asked if he thinks that system could change, Musselman said, "It could."

Pruitt has been lobbying Kansas state lawmakers to change the statute to allow for an enrollment multiplier like the one Missouri has.

She's also spearheaded a petition which currently has more than 500 signatures.

"I think there will be a lot push back, but I also think that adults need to do what adults need to do," Pruitt said. 

Bishop Miege Athletics Director Mike Hubka declined the 41 Action News Investigators request for an on-camera interview.

Hubka, who's part of that 19 member committee, did say any changes to improve competition should affect both public and private schools.

Representatives of that special committee will make their presentation to the KSHSAA Executive Board Wednesday morning.

It's the first step in a multi-step process which would include feedback from all of the 364 KSHSAA member high schools.

Any changes would need to be approved by a majority of those schools and would likely take a year or two to implement.

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Andy Alcock can be reached at anderson.alcock@kshb.com.

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