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Sompayrac, Irish seek smaller multiplier

Targeting the 2013-14 school year, when Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's new enrollment classifications will take effect, Knoxville Catholic High School is seeking a “multiplier” change to better compete athletically.

Private schools such as KCHS are allowed into Division I public athletic classifications, with the 1.8 multiplier of its enrollment, if that school's athletes don't accept “need-based financial aid,” said Dickie Sompayrac, KCHS principal.

Sompayrac is spearheading a push to reduce the multiplier to 1.4.

Of the 17 private schools in Tennessee that compete in TSSAA Division I (public school) athletics, “Knoxville Catholic by far has got the greatest disparity, in terms of our multiplied enrollment compared to the schools we're playing, in the state,” Sompayrac said about having to play much bigger Class AAA schools.

“We're the only private school in the entire state of Tennessee that's in [Class] AAA,” he added, noting TSSAA's 1.8 multiplier “is the largest multiplier in the country.”

With a 2010-11 school year enrollment of 669, Knoxville Catholic's 1.8 multiplier adds up to 1,204. Minimum cutoff enrollment point, with multiplier, to compete at KCHS's current AAA and 5A football level is 1,050.

Knoxville Catholic has competed in Division I athletics since the early 2000s, but were bumped up from Class AA to Class AAA beginning with the 2009-10 school year.

“When they did the re-classification, we had 1,120 with the multiplier,” Sompayrac said.

However, as compared to the seven public schools KCHS competes with in TSSAA District 4-AAA sports — Farragut, Bearden, Maryville, William Blount, Heritage, West and Lenoir City — the average current enrollment of the seven, according to Sompayrac, is 1,636.

“That's 432 more students than our current multiplied enrollment,” Sompayrac said. “In essence, our multiplier is really 2.5 when you look at the district we're playing in.”

Though KCHS has been highly competitive in certain AAA sports such as girls soccer (2010-11) and boys basketball (2009-10) — while beating Farragut in football last September — Sompayrac said less depth in football versus many of the other seven District 4-AAA schools makes it harder for the Irish to compete. “I think that's a significant point,” he said.

The Farragut area's two other Division I private schools are Christian Academy of Knoxville (Class AA) and new TSSAA member Knoxville Christian School (Class A).

“To give you a comparison, CAK is exactly even” with multiplier factored in versus schools in their sports districts, Sompayrac said.

Steve Denny, CAK athletic director, said he and other school officials would have to “study the matter further” before rendering an opinion on the 1.4 multiplier.

Appearing before TSSAA's 9-member Board of Controls (plus Executive Director Bernard Childress) Nov. 18 at Hermitage, Sompayrac said board members heard him out without either heavily positive or negative feedback.

Specifically meeting with Second Athletic District Board member Lynn Brown, an assistant principal at Maryville High, “Lynn felt like this was worth looking at,” Sompayrac said.

The KCHS principal emphasized he wants to be careful and not stir up a hornet’s nest over the issue. “We just want to present the numbers,” he said. “Really, it's about a year from now where the TSSAA has to start making some decisions about classifications.”

Sompayrac said two basic reasons explain why private “non-financial-aid to athletes” programs competing in Division I are saddled with a multiplier: 1) a higher percentage of private school students participate in athletics versus public students (roughly 65 to 30 percent); 2) unlike many public schools including Knox, private schools have no boundaries to restrict their potential talent pool.

“Going back to Division II [private classifications] is really not a viable option for us,” he said.


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