Arkansas’ new Competitive Equity Factor will level playing field between public and private school programs

By Leland Barclay

The Competitive Equity Factor for classifying non-public schools was approved by the Arkansas Activities Association Board of Directors on the first day of its annual workshop.  

The Competitive Equity Factor utilizes a formula for determining whether a non-public school has been overly competitive in a sport in its assigned classification over a four-year span. If it has, that school for that particular sport will be elevated an additional classification for the next four years.

The Competitive Equity Factor was passed by a count of 157 for and 28 against. It was created as a means to level the playing field between public and non-public schools after concerns were raised about the disproportionate number of state championships won by non-public schools

By approving the Competitive Equity Factor, member schools also agreed to modify Section 10, Rule 1, of the AAA bylaws that require the 16, 16, 32, 48, 48, 48 classification alignments. Public schools will be assigned to their classifications based on the three-year averages for students in grades 9-11, after which non-public schools will be assigned classifications based on Competitive Equity Factor adjustments.

Non-public schools, or private schools, already are elevated one classification. The Competitive Equity Factor could elevate a school one additional classification for earning 10 competitive balance points over the four-year period, which includes:

4 — state championship

3 — runner-up in a state championship game

2 — playoff victory

1 — conference championship

Points are not cumulative and the most points a team can earn in a season is four.

Teams also can be dropped a classification for earning two points or fewer.

The Competitive Equity Factor will begin for the 2022-23 school year. Points will be determined for the past three seasons and the upcoming school year.

The implementation of the Competitive Equity Factor concludes the hearing of Arkansas House Bill 1097, which was filed in January and called for the Arkansas Activities Association to create either two separate conference systems or playoff and state tournament systems for public schools and private schools.

The lead sponsor of House Bill 1097 was Jim Wooten, a Republican Representative from Beebe.

As far as team sports, private schools won the following state championships during the 2020-2021 school year:

Football — Pulaski Academy (5A), Shiloh Christian (4A), Harding Academy (3A)

Boys basketball – Harding Academy (3A)

Baseball – Harding Academy (3A)

Softball – Baptist Prep (3A)

Girls soccer – Pulaski Academy (4A), Harding Academy (3A)

In addition, Little Rock Christian played in the Class 5A football championship game, Sacred Heart played in the Class 1A girls basketball championship game, and Harding Academy played in the Class 3A boys soccer championship game. No private schools appeared in state championship games in girls basketball or volleyball.

— By Leland Barclay; Shiloh Christian photo by Jimmy Jones

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