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OPINION | WALLY HALL: AAA proposal a step in direction of fairness

by Wally Hall | April 14, 2021 at 2:38 a.m.

It is being whispered that State Rep. Jim Wooten of Beebe will not proceed with House Bill 1097 on Thursday morning.

The bill would have prohibited private schools from competing against public schools.

It could have been subtitled. "Tired of losing to Pulaski Academy" because most football programs are. The Bruins have won nine state titles, including six of the past seven in Class 5A.

But after the release of the Arkansas Activities Association's new plan, the Competitive Equity Factor, it appears Wooten will win without involving state government further.

The AAA had been working on its plan for two years before covid-19 forced all the attention on playing and surviving.

The plan was released last week, and basically what it does is take a four-year body of work by a private-school program and determines what classification the school will participate in.

Here's how it works: A team that finishes the season with a winning record earns one point, two points for winning a state playoff game, three points for making the championship game and four points for winning it.

A team can accumulate a maximum of four points per year. After four years, its classification would be reevaluated.

Over the past four seasons, Pulaski Academy would have earned 15 points in football. That would make it -- and this is the key word -- a "dominant" program.

The Bruins are not the only dominant program in the state, and the reason they are is because of great coaching. They can't recruit -- there are too many rules in place -- so Coach Kevin Kelley adjusts to his talent.

If you insist on thinking Kelley recruits, look at how many high Division I recruits he has produced -- it's just a handful.

It would help his case if he punted every once in a while or didn't onside kick so much. Maybe even sit on the ball when leading someone like Beebe 52-21 in the fourth quarter. The final PA touchdown last season was a run, not a pass, but it made the score 58-21. Some, perhaps even Rep. Wooten, probably felt slighted.

But Kelley, who will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night, is unlikely to change a lot.

If the plan passes, it is likely the Bruins eventually will be moved up to Class 6A. If they are dominant there, eventually they might compete in Class 7A.

The AAA's plan is not just about boys and football, though.

If the football team moves up, it doesn't mean any of the other sports teams will unless they have been dominant as well.

If a team has not succeeded, it can be moved down a classification.

This levels the playing field for all genders and all sports. It is a great idea, and one that took a lot of meetings to hammer out.

It is what the AAA does, just like when everything is worked out on the transgender bill, the organization will adjust its rules.

Right now the organization goes by the law on the books, which says athletes must compete with the gender on their birth certificate. Only a judge can overrule it.

If that law changes, and it apparently will eventually, so will the AAA.

One would think the National Organization of Women might have something to say, too.

As for the private school issue, by all accounts Rep. Wooten is a very nice man who was more than willing to listen to others, including the AAA.

The AAA has been working for a long time on a classification system dependent more on performance than enrollment.

If passed, the Competitive Equity Factor is scheduled to begin for the 2022-23 school year, giving everyone plenty of time to prepare.


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