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Will a Private School Win A UIL Championship?

Six years after the UIL opened its door to private schools Dallas Jesuit and Houston Strake Jesuit, this weekend could produce a private school state champion. The championship would be in basketball but it will be interesting to see how everyone reacts to it. The only thing that could top Strake Jesuits appearance this weekend would be a trip to a 5A football championship game for one of these two schools.

The Crusaders from Houston and the Rangers from Dallas are the only two private schools among about 1,300 in the states governing body for public school sports. Critics argue that these schools can pull students in from anywhere and some claim that private schools exist to build sports dynasties that dominate the national rankings. This would mean they have to recruit star players.

The UIL addressed the concerns over private schools recruiting from a wide area. Each school is assigned the same attendance zone as the nearest UIL member school. Student athletes from outside that attendance zone are also not allowed to play varsity level sports for one year. This includes freshmen as well as upperclassman.

The Jesuit schools are boys only schools. Houston Strake Jesuit has enrollment just shy of 900 and Dallas Jesuit has an enrollment of nearly 1000. If you double those numbers to mirror the coed UIL schools then both would qualify to be Class 4A schools. The UIL carefully changed its rules to create opportunities for some private schools that were not eligible for membership in another league. They would be required to compete in Class 5A though, which is the states largest classification. The present minimum for the 5A level is 2,085.

The schools had been without a league since the Texas Christian Interscholastic League had disbanded after the 1999-2000 school year and their enrollments were too large for eligibility in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. Their teams were forced to play as independents, resulting in scheduling problems and long road trips.

The UIL's decision, which was crafted to limit inclusion to the Jesuits, came after Dallas Jesuit had sued in federal court seeking admission. That case was thrown out, but the court battles are not over. San Antonio Cornerstone Christian has an appeal pending after its attempt to gain UIL admission was thrown out by a judge. Bills related to private schools and the UIL are common in the Texas Legislature as well. Texas is one of the few states nationally that doesn't allow open competition between public and private schools.

The Jesuit schools receive a Lone Star Gridiron salute. They have been model citizens since competing in the UIL leagues. Let them play!!!

Playoff Appearances in football, basketball, soccer and baseball:

Dallas Jesuit:
Football 3 appearances (1-3 record); second round in ’04
Basketball 5 appearances (0-5); second round (via bye) in ’04
Soccer 5 appearances (16-5); state semifinals in ’06
Baseball 4 appearances (4-4); third round in ’04 no playoff appearances

Houston Strake Jesuit:
Football 3 appearances (2-3 record); second round in ’05 and ’08
Basketball 3 appearances (6-2); Still playing in 2009 state tournament (37-0 record)
Soccer 4 appearances (6-4); regional semifinals in ’05 and ’08

By: Michael Wright
Lone Star Gridiron

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