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Miami Northwestern Senior High and three other inner-city schools have to beat on each other to reach the state championship.EXPAND
Miami Northwestern Senior High and three other inner-city schools have to beat on each other to reach the state championship.
Florida High School Athletic Association

Stop Inner-City High-School Football Programs From "Cannabilizing" Each Other

For the past seven years, Miami Carol City, Miami Central, Miami Norland, and Miami Northwestern High School football programs have been taking each other out to clear a path to the District 6A state championship. Central began this remarkable run by claiming the state title for three straight years, from 2012 to 2015. Carol City claimed the trophy in 2016. And Northwestern just capped off a championship repeat by blanking Seffner Armwood 22-0 in a repeat of last year's District 4A state title game.

The four inner-city schools are football powerhouses that have produced the largest number of NFL players. But they have been unfairly forced to compete against each other for one annual shot at a state championship. Now, school board member Steve Gallon III has proffered a proposal that could give Carol City, Central, Norland, and Northwestern more than one path to a title.

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At next week’s Miami-Dade School Board meeting on Tuesday, December 19,  Gallon wants his colleagues to authorize Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and his staff to review the classification of high-school athletic programs so that the four inner-city schools don’t have to keep competing against one another for the state 6A district title every year. A reclassification would also give these schools an opportunity to compete against prominent private-school football programs such as St. Thomas Aquinas and Christopher Columbus for state titles. Under the current system, the four inner-city schools compete in the same district. For the past seven years, Central, Carol City, and Northwestern have won state titles in the 6A division. To win, the teams have to take each another out.

Meanwhile, Columbus, which plays in District 8A, and St. Thomas, which is in District 7A, have easier paths to state championship games because they play against lesser competition. Gallon wants to end the “competitive cannibalism” among the four inner-city schools.

“This item, if approved by the board, will square the classifications of high-school athletic programs in Miami-Dade,” Gallon told me. “A reclassification of the programs in our district can end the pathway to a state championship being at the defeat of neighboring schools. We can create a true win-win.”

Gallon is right. The classifications are based on student enrollment numbers. While Central, Carol City, Northwestern, and Norland have remained in District 6A for the past seven years, the schools’ populations have fluctuated. It's time to do a proper headcount so these schools can be properly classified.

This could be a great way of opening up competition in other districts. The inner-city schools would still be able to schedule one another but would also vy for state titles in other districts against Columbus and St. Thomas, as well as other top high-school programs.

Gallon's proposal has a good chance of passing. Last week, a school board committee that includes Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, who represents a majority of the schools that would be affected by the reclassification, unanimously backed Gallon's request.

Gallon, no stranger to challenging the status quo, rocked the Florida High School Athletic Association establishment, which is already scrambling to reclassify schools. Ahead of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the association has already set Carol City in District 4A and Northwestern in 5A. And Belen Jesuit went from District 8A to 6A, where the West Dade private school will now have to defeat Miami Central to reach a state title game.

I know that in government and politics, there are no coincidences. I’m sure the FHSAA got Gallon’s memo.

If the school board passes Gallon’s plan, it will be interesting to see how the board for the Greater Miami Athletic Conference (GMAC), which oversees high-school sports, reacts. Its members might feel political pressure from Belen and Gulliver Prep, a 4A school that now must compete against Carol City, to change districts to avoid playing the inner-city schools. The school board should make sure the GMAC stays loyal to the public schools.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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