As I mentioned in my recent American Conservative article (now on line), state high school football titles these days tends to be won mostly by Catholic or mostly white exurban or small town schools. One reason for this is that in small towns, voters care about the high school team representing local honor. So the school boards invest in winning football programs. In a big city, however, where the public schools compete against each other, nobody is going to get voted out of office if one team in the school district beats another team.
In my high schools days, my old Catholic school wasn't really competitive with the Los Angeles city schools because they had so much more "speed" and "athleticism," but that's changed radically over the decades. Until this year when Birmingham, an LAUSD team, beat Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks fair and square.
Birmingham went on to win the City title with ease. California doesn't have a playoff system (because it's so big, travel would he enormously expensive and the playoffs would run into Christmas) but it now has three bowl games matching the top big, medium, and small schools from Northern and Southern California. Birmingham will now wait around to find out if they get the invite to play mighty De La Salle of Concord in the Bay Area in the big schools bowl.
Here are the conditions Birmingham, as an LAUSD school, plays under:
The entire budget for the team this season is $13,000.
I asked Prizant when the last time he sent off the helmets and pads for reconditioning and he just laughed.
"I wish we could give them more money, but we just don't have it," Prizant said. "I wish we could have a freshman team, or more than one bus to send them to games. I wish we could pay our head coach more than $3,200. But ..."
Birmingham, like many schools in our public school system, has to make do with less. That means bringing in volunteer coaches, working long hours without ever expecting to get paid overtime, then drawing anything you got left, blood, sweat, tears, and a ton of heart.
In contrast, at Hoover High, in exurban Birmingham, AL, the boosters raise $300k annually, and the coach is paid close to six figures.
It's interesting to compare the demographics of the Birmingham (Lake Balboa, CA) football team to its student body. The team is 60% black, 20% Latino, and 20% other. Last year, the "other" included 9 Polynesians, although this year it's down to 3.
The school of 3,176 students in 2006-2007, in contrast, was 72.5% Latino, 12.9% white, and only 8.5% black. Last year, 9 of the 14 Pacific Islanders were on the football team! I imagine the other 5 were girls. (That actually might be a good test of how much recruiting of football players a high school is doing -- examine the gender imbalance among Polynesians. If there are a lot more boys than girls, the school is bringing in football players, which is supposed to be a no-no.)
When Notre Dame got beat in the CIF finals a couple of years ago by Dominguez of Compton, Dominguez's whole offensive line was Polynesian, including a 319 pound tight end.
It's becoming traditional among the top Southern California football teams to do a Polynesian war chant before games. Mighty Long Beach Poly started the tradition, and Birmingham took it up two years ago.