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athletic support by eli cranor

Athletic Support: Private schools have the upper hand
January 9, 2021

Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Please use the “Contact” page at to send in questions for “Athletic Support.”

Dear Athletic Support: I'm so sick of seeing private schools win everything in our state. This past year, nearly half of the football champions went to private schools. Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot to you, but there are only a handful of private schools in my state with football teams! So, yeah, the numbers are way off. Used to, these private schools — who can recruit and offer players "scholarships" to come play on their team — had to play a division up. So if they were supposed to be a 3A school based on population, they had to play in the 4A. Problem was, the fancy private school people couldn't compete playing against the bigger schools so they got the rule changed. Now they're basically running through all the public schools and it just doesn't seem fair to me. Any team that's got as much money as Pulaski Academy shouldn't be playing against a public school that's barely scraping by. Don't you think?

— Private Eye

Dear Private: This question goes way back for me. I can remember playing against this team in my Little League baseball days (ages 9-12) called “Junior Deputy.” All I can really recall about this team is that they were from Little Rock and we were convinced they were cheating.

We just didn’t know how.

We were an “All Star” team. So that meant we played in the local league, then at the end of the season a group of coaches (mostly just our dads) got together and picked the best players.

It wasn’t like that for Junior Deputy. They were a travel team before travel teams were even a thing. They played together all year then somehow were allowed to enter into the state tournament with the rest of the “All Star” teams from across the state.

Needless to say, Junior Deputy won most of the championships back in those days. Just like private schools are dominating the state football scene twenty years later.

I don’t think these private schools are cheating, but I do think their continued success is something to consider. Why is it that private schools are able to compete at such a high level every year? Are they really just that better coached?

Or does the recruiting tactics you mentioned in your question give them the extra edge they need?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not very well versed in the AAA rules regarding private schools, but I did play for one in college. And at Ouachita Baptist University, I’ll come straight out and say it — being a private school was a disadvantage.

We had a much smaller population of students. We had to deal with a different set of rules. And we received very little (if any) state funding for scholarships.

All of those things actually made it harder to compete with much larger, state-funded schools.

So to answer your question, I think there are advantages and disadvantages to being a private school. It all just depends on the competition.

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"Eli Cranor has an almost unbeatable advantage. He can remember how it felt to think like a twelve-year-old and he can see the very same events like the adult he is. Don't try to resist this book!"
- Jack Butler, Pulitzer-Prize nominated author

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