Mike McFeely column: Parochials offer their own opinion
You'll forgive the three parochial schools at this week's Class B tournament for feeling a bit persecuted. Pardon the phrase. But as private schools from bigger cities continue to grab multiple spots in North Dakota's small-school tournament -- a...
You'll forgive the three parochial schools at this week's Class B tournament for feeling a bit persecuted.
Pardon the phrase.
But as private schools from bigger cities continue to grab multiple spots in North Dakota's small-school tournament -- as Bismarck Shiloh Christian, Minot Ryan and Dickinson Trinity have done this year -- the grumbling from the rank-and-file Class B towns becomes more pronounced.
"We've heard it all. We recruit. We host region games at our gym so we have a home-court advantage. Dickinson isn't a Class B town," said Steve Glasser, an assistant coach for Trinity who also happens to be the school's development director. "The best one I've heard is that we have so many good athletes that we are turning kids away. Trust me, as the school's development director, I know we're not in a position to turn people away."
Trinity has had an impressive run in football and basketball the past several years -- this is the Titans' fifth berth in the Class B in six years -- and that has led to hard feelings in the southwest part of the state. Evidence of that surfaced this week when it was learned small-school administrators from the southwest are crafting a proposal to present to the North Dakota High School Activities Association that would split the state's basketball into three classes.
It's not accurate to pin the proposal completely on Trinity's success, but it does play a part. So does the fact that in four of the past five years, three parochial schools have made the eight-team state tournament.
They must be recruiting, right?
"That's the one that bothers me the most," Minot Ryan coach Randy Nelson said. "I have never gone up to a kid and said, 'Hey, would you like to come play for me?' I would never do that. Now, if a parent or a player comes up to me and says, 'We'd like to check out your school,' I'm not going to turn them away."
Said Trinity head coach Gregg Grinsteinner: "We do not recruit. But that's the stigma we have to live with. When we have a prospective student, we try to sell the school and the advantages of a faith-based education. Athletics can be a part of it, but it's not just the athletics. But the perception is out there that we recruit and, in some people's minds, perception is reality."
So much so that we'd like to share a story. In 2000, when Fargo Oak Grove qualified for the Class B for the first time since 1986, a very upset (and anonymous) woman called your favorite columnist. The following, brief conversation took place:
Caller: "You guys are writing all these stories on Oak Grove because they're going to the state tournament, but the story you should really be writing is how they recruit. Why don't you look into that?"
Columnist: "Well, ma'am, if my math is correct it's been almost 15 years since they've been to state. So if they are recruiting, they're doing a pretty poor job of it."
Caller (more upset now): "Everybody knows they recruit!"
Lost in the fog of the recruiting argument, of course, is the minor fact that North Dakota is an open enrollment state. Any student can go to any school, public or private, that he or she chooses.
Is anybody naïve enough to believe that private schools, in their history in the state, have never once recruited students based on athletic ability? Of course not. But what upsets coaches like Grinsteinner is that the invectives aimed at parochial schools detract from the players' accomplishments.
"We've been successful because of our kids," Grinsteinner said. "We have been fortunate to have some good athletes and their work ethic is second to none. The kids put in the time, during the season and in the off-season."
Nelson echoed that sentiment.
"I just think the kids are victims of unfair criticism. It doesn't matter whether these kids are from a public school or a private school. My team had to go through the same steps every other team had to go through to get here," Nelson said. "I mean, we got here with a 15-11 record. Obviously we had to work through some things and it wasn't easy. Don't take anything away from the hard work and dedication of the kids."
Oh, and one other thing. Shiloh Christian and Ryan both lost their first-round games Thursday. To public schools located in Cavalier and Linton.
Guess they better ramp up that recruiting budget, eh folks?
Readers can reach Mike McFeely at (701) 241-5580 or email@example.com