Monday, February 26, 2007

Hey Eddie: Oak Hill belongs, and here's why.

Eddie Oliver of regularly writes about about how how Oak Hill doesn't belong to be nationally ranked along side what he calls "traditional high schools." He usually includes a passage somewhere therein about how no other national pollster is willing to step up and address the issue.

Well, that simply is not true.

A couple of weeks back, I exchanged a series of emails with Eddie giving him our thoughts on why we choose to rank Oak Hill. We invited Eddie to share our specific views with his readers.

He chose not to do so.

Therefore, I will take a few minutes to share with you what I shared with him and vice versa.

In a message dated 2/5/2007 3:32:28 PM Central Standard Time, writes:
Can't believe you guys put Oak Hill back at 1. A team with players from no less than seven different states. Might as well put them in at the same position for the future and list all the other traditional schools one by one behind them. Traditional schools are just forgotten I guess. At least one person stills cares about doing things right. I just wish people would wake up and smell the coffee. I'm really disappointed!!!!


Our reply:

That's a pretty slippery slope you are on these days, Eddie.

Huntington's (public school) best player has played HS ball in three different states. St. Pats has players who hail from various parts of the NJ/NYC region. Mater Dei brings in players from throughout the Southland of the LA Metro -- just like DeMatha does in the Washington DC metro. Artesia's (public school) best player is from Mississippi.

So, what exactly is your definition of a "traditional" high school?

If you are going to "do things right" while the rest of us allegedly bastardize the spirit of ranking high school basketball teams, make sure you inform your readers what makes DeMatha, Roman Catholic and Neumann-Goretti (for example) national programs while Artesia, Mater Dei and St. Pats are not.

You choose not to rank DeMatha, Neumann-Goretti and Towson Catholic (for examples) because the Catholic schools in the DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia metros have long chosen to compete independently from the state associations. There are many, many reasons for that. For the DC Catholic schools, it's as simple because the Catholic schools compete across state lines. For the Philly schools, it's because the tradition of the Philly Catholic and Public Leagues are much older than that of the PIAA. Ask Ted Silary of the Philadelphia Inquirer or Jerry Shenk about that. For Baltimore, it would be a major step down in competition for the those schools to compete for a state title when their own MIAA championship is much more competitive. If they did want to compete with the public schools, they probably would not be allowed to anyway. The Maryland state association wouldn't want them because the balance of power would be shifted greatly toward the former MIAA schools.

However, you do rank St. Pats and Mater Dei -- which have just as many players who hail from areas outside the public school boundaries where those schools are located as do DeMatha, NG and Towson Catholic.

I think you have the best of intentions, but it seems you are being extremely unfair to the DeMathas, etc. of the world simply because they play in leagues that have a history of playing for championships that are older and (to them) more important than those awarded by their state associations ...

I hope you see our point. You cannot fairly segregate the teams. Therefore, so long as they have a team composed soley of four-year HS eligible players and so long as they are competing with a schedule of teams that are also eligible for the rankings, we feel there is no reason not to rank those teams.

Feel free to share all or some of our thoughts with the readers on your site. I think it would be instructive for them to hear both sides.


In a message dated 2/6/2007 12:09:45 AM Central Standard Time, writes:
First, you didn't answer my question as I did yours and I explained throughly the difference I use to determine polls (So now, with that in mind, why do you think that Oak Hill is equal to the school down the street from where you live?).

Let's make something very clear. I love schools like Oak Hill, DeMatha and the others you mention. I love what they stand for and I love visiting those schools. I wish all public schools had the discipline and academic standards that those schools have and unlike other polls all the schools you mentioned are ranked in my polls.

I hate that most public schools have taken a total nosedive in regard to the same principals that were in place years ago when schools like Oak Hill weren't necessary. I really like Steve Smith and the other coaches and I love watching them play. I was extremely impressed when I visited Oak Hill this past summer. Steve Smith and I have debated the issue of rankings in person and on radio shows. In my poll, Oak Hill is still highly rated and will probably end up number one. Reaching that point doesn't have to be in the same category with mostly traditional schools who would have no chance at all on the basketball court.

I have communicated with all of the people you mentioned and I respect their opinions just as I do yours and I think they respect mine. They send me their ratings each week and I use all they send me. Other than the things I have mentioned which make them outstanding schools, I don't think some schools would be taking a step down to join state associations, but if I were them I would not change. The main difference would be that they may not be able to bring in the students they do now and their academic standards might suffer. The Philadelphia Catholic Schools will join their state association next year and I think that may be a move they regret.

It shouldn't be just about basketball and how high you are ranked for the schools we disagree about, but sometimes I get the impression that's all that matters. Also just think about it. Would the same players be able to get in the Oak Hill's of the world if they were not basketball players. I don't think so and I'm sure neither do you ...

Just like me, you and the others could have separate polls and give the same publicity to even more schools. At some point before I'm to old to do it, I hope to make contact with every high school in the country and have them send all the polls their opinions on this subject. I have already done opinion polls twice on my website and the way most people felt was overwhelming that my opinion is the right one. I wrote a story a while back that is still on my site somewhere noting the National Champions back to the late eighties. Take a look at that sometime and you'll maybe understand my point a little better. I am looking forward to this weekend when I will again see many of the outstanding teams. I wish we agreed but I guess that's never going to happen. I've enjoyed our little debate.


Our reply:

Eddie -- Do you propose that the AP stop ranking Duke and Georgetown in its college basketball poll because, like Oak Hill, those schools have a number of players on their teams who would not otherwise be able to get into those schools academically?

My point: Our poll is not intended to be a force for fixing the ills that plague our public schools. It is simply our best attempt to rank the on-court acheivement of the best high school-level teams in the country. Without regard to how those teams are put together or if they are or are not a member of a state association. We only require that they play four-year players and play a schedule against top high school-level competition (not prep schools).

I think you will also agree, the program ran by Steve Smith at Oak Hill maintains higher standards in terms of academics and personal responsibilty from its athletes than literally hundreds of successful "traditional" high school programs that are governed by a state association.

One question you have not given me adequate resolution on is how you differentiate a DeMatha from a Mater Dei. The only difference is that there are not dozens of traditional high-level Catholic programs in Southern California as there are in the DC metro. If there were, I would guess that Mater Dei would compete with those teams rather than in the CIF.

Why punish DeMatha for having an athletic program that is virtually a carbon copy of the one at Mater Dei? Or how about De La Salle in Northern California?

I understand your argument. But I think the resulting team selection in your polls suffers from a serious lack of consistency.

In a message dated 2/12/2007 4:47:52 PM Central Standard Time, writes:
Thanks for getting your poll out so early. Just got back from NJ. The games were good. Glad Oak Hill won with the foul shot with less than a second ... Even if Oak Hill had lost they'ld probably still be a #1 or would still be in a position to get back up when the other teams lose. They are the only team that is ever in that position in some of the polls. I truly and honestly do not understand it! The best!
PS Here is the story I referred to last week. Poor traditional schools will never get their due!

Our reply:

The reason that Oak Hill typically gets a chance to move back to No. 1, even after a loss, is because they typically play a national schedule that is superior to any other team in the nation. Therefore, so long as they are eligible to be ranked in the poll of your choosing (we've already had this dicussion), in many cases they are most deserving based upon what they have proven on the court during the season. There have been some exceptions to that rule, however, when Oak Hill did not finish #1. For example, the years we ranked Niagara Falls and Dominguez #1 ahead of Oak Hill when all teams had at least one loss.

I noticed on your website that you are interested in all views concerning our debate. I offered you many views and invited you to post them on your site. I hope that your readers do not believe that we are not interested in offering our reasoning for ranking the teams the way we do. Especially since you kind of painted all of the polls with one brush in stating "that's how we've always done it." ... that is absolutely not the explanation that I gave you for why we rank Oak Hill, DeMatha, etc in the same poll as Mater Dei, St. Patrick's etc.

Thanks for all you do, Eddie,



We realize Oak Hill is quite different than most if not all 'traditional' high schools. However, the argument we were chewing on was why Eddie Oliver's "traditonal poll" treats the Mater Dei's, St. Patrick's of the world differently from the DeMatha's and Neumann-Goretti's.

Eddie states his case that MD and SP are members of a state association, and I countered that DM, NG, Towson Catholic and others have very good reasons to not be part of their state associations.

With regard to Oak Hill and Oak Hill alone. We rank Oak Hill because it is not the only team in the country that brings players in from outside its geographic realm. And it would be a very slippery slope to start defining what is the proper distance from which a team can bring in a player, or how many transfers can be on its roster, etc. Because, the fact of the matter is several so-called traditional HS schools (by Eddie's definition) also have high-profile transfers on their teams who are from out of state.

Bottom line is we rank Oak Hill because they have a team made up of high school-aged and high school eligible players who play a schedule made up primarily of other high school teams. In short, they are INDEED a high school team. To not rank them would be to open up a Pandora's box with regard to how many transfers teams have, where they come from, etc.

So as long as Oak Hill does not play fifth-year players, continues to play a schedule made up primarily of other high school teams eligible for our rankings, they will continue to be in our poll.

It is not because that is how we have always done it. It's because it is the right way to do the poll, in our view.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

there should be a poll for just high schools whose players were born and raised in the same public school district. you pointed out that mayo has played in three states. the only reason he played in KY was because he averaged 50 points as a 6th grader (at Cammack Middle School in Huntington, WV) and he needed to play varsity ball which KY allows as a 7th and 8th grader. he played in cincinnati to get his name out there more because us people in WV were under the impression that he wouldnt get noticed enough playing in WV. that was proven wrong of course by the rest of his friends who stayed in huntington to play. even when he was in cincinnati he was always coming back and staying in huntington on weekends and holidays and the summer. so now he is back home...and yes huntington high has players who were born and raised in the huntington school district.