Let 'em pray: debate among public and private schools not centered on religion, just football.
Organized, pregame prayers cause a lot less consternation than, say, defending Shiloh Christian's spread offense. And if there are any problems surrounding prayer on the field, they have proven much easier to solve than leveling the same playing field.
Multipliers, transfer rules and classification changes have been put in play in recent years in an effort to minimize the perceived advantage that private schools, who can offer athletes financial aid, have over their public brethren. But no one is really complaining about the private schools' edge when it comes to expressions of faith.
"I don't think it's really an issue with any of them," Shiloh Christian coach and athletic director Josh Floyd said. "I wouldn't say anybody, anywhere has ever brought it up with me."
Private, parochial schools like Shiloh, which is affiliated with the First Baptist Church in Springdale, aren't bound by the same laws governing schools that accept federal or state funding, so they don't face restrictions on school-organized, pregame prayer.
That means a local minister or student leader can conduct an organized prayer over the stadium public address system at a private school home game.
Yet the law doesn't ban prayer at public school games.
"If it's student led, I think the law says, if it's student led, prayer is fine," Arkansas Activities Association executive director
Lance Taylor said. "As king as it's not over the PA system."
The AAA has more than 300 high schools in its membership and 21 are private schools. Naturally, a private, church-affiliated school will play more public than private school opponents in a given season and will have to travel to schools where organized, pregame prayers are not allowed.
Floyd said his team solves that by simply having a team prayer in the locker room.
"I've seen many public schools do the same thing," Floyd said.
Taylor said prayer has never become such an issue that the AAA has had to weigh in with a ruling or guideline.
"No, not at all. That's up to each individual school district," Taylor said.
Not that public-private school issues haven't kept the AAA's hands full.
After a season in which Shiloh Christian won its fifth state title in a decade, taking the 4A championship and beating public school Berryville 65-0 in a regular-season game, the public vs. private school uproar got a little louder.
Berryville put forth a proposal requiring schools that offer need-based financial aid to play each other for state championships while the AAA's board of directors countered with a proposal to tighten transfer rules. Taylor has said publicly he felt high-profile
athletes transferring at will in grades 8-10 was causing more problems than the financial aid offered by schools like Shiloh. Floyd said he agrees in principle with rules governing transfers, but once a rule is in place he would like to see it given a chance to work.
Whatever the issues pulling public and private schools apart, it is the prayers, however briefly, that bring them together. On most Friday nights, even during the heat of the postseason, players and coaches from opposing teams continue to huddle for a voluntary word of thanks.
"I've been to a lot of football finals and basketball finals and I've seen them all huddle tap," Taylor said.
PRIVATE, FAITH-BASED FOOTBALL PLAYING SCHOOLS SCHOOL CLASS LOCATION ARKANSAS BAPTIST 3A Little Rock CATHOLIC HIGH FOR BOYS 7A Little Rock CENTRAL ARKANSAS CHRISTIAN 5A North Little Rock CONWAY CHRISTIAN 2A Conway EPISCOPAL COLLEGIATE SCHOOL 3A Little Rock NARDING ACADEMY 3A Searcy LITTLE ROCK CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 5A Little Rock LUTHERAN HIGH SCHOOL 2A Little Rock PULASKI ACADEMY 5A Little Rock SHILOH CHRISTIAN 4A Springdale SUBIACO ACADEMY 4A Subiaco UNION CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 2A Fort Smith
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|Title Annotation:||HIGH SCHOOL: Faith and Football|
|Date:||Jul 13, 2009|
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