Football: D.C. could add high school playoff, create a true city champion under new proposal

High school football teams in the District could vie for a true city championship as early as this fall, according to a proposal by statewide athletic director Clark Ray.

The proposal includes a four-team playoff of public charter schools, independent schools and private schools, with the winner to meet the champion of the Turkey Bowl, the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title game traditionally held on Thanksgiving Day.

The city-wide championship game is proposed for nine days later, on Dec. 1. The proposal would have to be approved by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) with the blessing of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and D.C. Public Schools, Ray said. Gray has been pushing to include the growing public charter schools in city-wide athletics next school year.

Students enrolled at public charter schools make up 41 percent of total D.C. public school enrollment.

“Everyone is interested in playing for a ‘state title,’ ” Ray said. “There is a lot of excitement, especially in the football community,” he added.

The bracket opposite the DCIAA could include such private schools as St. John’s, Carroll or Gonzaga of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, St. Albans of the Interstate Athletic Conference, or Sidwell Friends and Maret of the Mid-Atlantic Conference.

Seven private schools and five public charter schools in the District played football last season, with more expected this fall.

“I like the entire setup of the way that every high school in D.C. can participate in the form of a championship,” said Friendship Collegiate Academy charter school Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, whose team finished last season ranked No. 7 by The Post yet didn’t play a postseason game . “I was also impressed with how Clark structured it in how the history of D.C. high school football can be kept intact. . . . I’m happy for all the charters schools as well as the private schools that can compete for a championship like the mainstream U.S.”

How the four teams would be selected is still “up for discussion,” Ray said. His office could create a point system and select the top four teams. The winner of a public charter school league, if there is one next season, could possibly be awarded an automatic bid as a semifinalist, said Ray, who stressed he wanted the process to be transparent.

All schools participating, however, would have to agree on a common set of eligibility rules, Ray said, a possible sticking point for schools since not all compete in the same leagues. Ray has been meeting with school officials since January, when he started in his newly created position at the Office of the State Superintendent.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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