LCA should not be allowed to play in VHSL

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LCA should not be allowed to play in VHSL

The Streaks varsity baseball team holds their trophy after playing Liberty Christian Academy

The Streaks varsity baseball team holds their trophy after playing Liberty Christian Academy

Photo courtesy of Gloria Ottaviano

The Streaks varsity baseball team holds their trophy after playing Liberty Christian Academy

Photo courtesy of Gloria Ottaviano

Photo courtesy of Gloria Ottaviano

The Streaks varsity baseball team holds their trophy after playing Liberty Christian Academy

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Last spring, I had the experience of being on a high school baseball team that made a run to the VHSL 4A State Tournament. On the way there, in the regional finals, we took on Liberty Christian Academy, a team from Lynchburg in their second season in VHSL competition. We lost 1-0, still advancing to states as the regional runner-up, but being kept away from the regional champion trophy. This wouldn’t be a big controversy except for the fact that Liberty Christian Academy is a private school with the legal ability to recruit players. This is not allowed in VHSL competition, so why is LCA allowed to participate?

During the regular season, LCA finished 18-2 with a victory over the VISAA (Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association) champion Miller School. They rolled through all of the competition in the playoffs and eventually defeated defending state champion Hanover to take the state title. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Public schools don’t have a choice as to the players they have on their team. Their teams consist of whoever lives in their school district. That’s what makes the VHSL championships so great: it’s essentially just a battle of guys who used to play against each other in Little League. It renews old rivalries and even causes new ones to pop up. Some people prefer the private school route of trying to bring in the best players from around the country, stacking their rosters and having at it against each other. That’s fine. I have no problem with that, but they shouldn’t just mix themselves up with the public schools.

Schools like LCA have unfair advantages over public schools such as Harrisonburg. They usually have direct pipelines to colleges (LCA’s is Liberty University, who literally owns LCA’s campus) and they can pick players from anywhere they want, taking them away from the public schools that need them. I’ve seen plenty of top players on public school teams leave to go play for a private school and even experienced the recruitment myself. As I said before, I don’t have a problem with the private schools taking the players, they just need to stay in their own lane. There is no reason for them to put themselves in VHSL competition other than the fact that they can win more trophies. They still play private schools in the regular season, which shows they still somewhat see themselves as a private school competitor. It’s pretty obvious to me that they only want to add to their reputation at the expense of public schools who don’t have the same privileges. It really shouldn’t be considered an accomplishment for them to win the state tournament against teams that don’t have nearly the resources they have to work with.

In addition to all of the issues that LCA’s advantages in athletics bring, the way they even got into the VHSL is controversial. In 2015, LCA sued the VHSL on the grounds of discrimination, saying the VHSL wouldn’t let them in because they are private. Logic says that makes sense because the VHSL is an organization for public schools. Nonetheless, LCA won the lawsuit and was admitted into the VHSL. Ironically, LCA is guilty of some discrimination themselves. When the school was first founded in 1966, they didn’t allow colored students, despite the fact that public schools across Virginia had already been integrated. Additionally, in a 2015 interview, LCA football coach and athletic director Frank Rocco spoke on the school’s discrimination against homosexual and transgender athletes, saying “Not at this time [will they be let in] is what I would say. That is one uniqueness in that a private school has the right to exercise what makes them private.” It’s a pretty contradictory lawsuit if you ask me, and even more contradictory that they won the lawsuit.

I know my points here just scream “sore loser,” but it’s about more than that. LCA’s participation in VHSL competition is just plain unethical. They should be put back in the VISAA where they belong.

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