HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — The spirit of competition is well and alive in Arkansas sports, but a bill proposed in the Arkansas Legislature is dropping as many jaws as even the greatest play.
The bill could turn losing teams into state champions. Senate Bill 391 would apply to any public athletic team losing to a private school in a championship game.
It was filed Thursday morning, while on Thursday afternoon Little Rock Christian Academy, a private school, and Blytheville, a public school, competed for the 4A Men’s Varsity Basketball championship.
Though clearly rivals, when asked if they’d want this bill to become law, fans were on the side. State Senator Bryan King said he wrote the bill to level the playing field.
“It’s just time to make some tough decisions, and it’s for the fairness of our kids,” King said.
King stated public schools have to take every kid that walks through the door, but private schools get to pick.
“That’s not fair,” he said. “We’re way past the point that we need to talk about how private schools dominating state championships, getting to the top and eliminating public schools while they don’t have to play by the same rules.”
A law that King believes is slam dunk legislation, some fans say is the opposite of fair.
“No matter if it’s a private school or a public school, a win’s a win. A champion is a champion,” Tyrone King said.
Tyrone is a fan of Blytheville, a public school. Across the court, Shawn Andrews was rooting for a private school, Little Rock Christian Academy, but he agreed with the Chickasaw fan.
“I think if you asked 100 people, I feel like at least 99 would feel like that’s an insane idea they came up with,” Andrews said.
If the bill becomes law as written, it would apply not only to future games but each championship in the past where a public school lost to a private one.
“I think the retroactive language is just to be fair to the kids in the public schools that had to compete in a state championship with a private school that has different standards in the way they do things,” Sen. King said.
“I really feel like it’s a slap in the face to the guys,” Andrews argued. “Guys at Blytheville work hard just like the guys at Little Rock Christian, Robinson, Hall, you name it. It’s just on the strength of your team. Don’t get mad, get better.”
King said he’s ready for criticism with room for improvement on his idea. It is nowhere in the legislation now, but King said one of his goals is for there to be separate championships for private and public schools. Other states like Texas already do that.
“The bill is to start the process, and it’s getting the language out there. That doesn’t mean anything in there is concrete or solid,” King said.
Little Rock Christian did beat Blytheville to become the 4A state champ. In late February, Blytheville beat them. Just like any sport, there’s a lot to talk about after the game is over.