February 24, 2016
Dear Bishop Ireton Cardinals, family, friends, and alumni,
Last weekend the Washington Post ran a story in their sports section detailing not only many of the athletic achievements and accolades earned by the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) over the years, but also highlighting a number of the challenges before us. Many of these challenges directly impact Bishop Ireton. But, as the interim commissioner of the WCAC for almost two school years, I have had a unique insight into the Conference and I believe much of the “rest of the story” was left untold in the Post article.
Without question, the twelve schools in the WCAC have unique missions and situations that perhaps neither can be nor should be changed. We do share much in common, starting with our Catholic identity. At the time that the last commissioner stepped down in August of 2014, the heads of school unanimously agreed to undertake a study of the Conference under the leadership of the current president, Dr. Marco Clark of Bishop McNamara. The goal was to determine “where we are” as a group, what common values we held and what we wanted collectively for our athletic association going forward. Play Like a Champion, Today, a consultant group from Notre Dame conducted this study, the first of its kind, and reported back to the heads of school. There were a number of positive findings but also challenges, from more closely evidencing our Catholic values to examining to what degree our programs were education-based and student-centric as opposed to entertainment and results-oriented.
The heads of school carefully reviewed and considered the many recommendations from the Notre Dame agency. They have developed from that report a new code of ethics as well as a new mission and vision statement. With the adoption of these fundamental principles, they have moved forward to select a new permanent commissioner to implement these bedrock principles and to work with them to possibly overhaul many of the current policies and regulations. The collegiality and determination of our leadership to build a strong Catholic organization has been unequalled in nearly 25 years of the WCAC. These positive developments in response to the challenges listed by the Post are the “good news” unreported.
Challenges for the Conference, such as competitive balance, are real and substantial. The athletic directors are engaged in looking for solutions. The leadership of our league is committed to strengthening the organization, improving our service to our student athletes, embracing our Catholic identity, and providing the same quality athletic experience we do in our academic and spiritual programs. It won’t be easy; but it will be attended to directly.
We do tackle some tough issues, like transfers, because, as one of the premier high school athletic associations, we have rules in place to take up these matters. When such challenges arise, we are stepping up to address them, with the goal of what’s best for our students and school communities.
We are excited for the next chapter of the WCAC story as it prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018. We are proud of what we are accomplishing on and off the field. Our alumni are leaders in society and together we will continue to graduate not only exceptional athletes, but exceptional people! As I prepare to turn the commissioner’s reins over to a new permanent commissioner, I am excited for the possibilities ahead for what many call the “greatest high school athletic conference in America”. I am proud that Bishop Ireton is a contributing member to that reputation.
WW Simmons, CAA