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BURNSTEIN COLUMN: In its current form, the Detroit PSL serves no one’s best interest, and changes are needed

By: Scott Burnstein, September 10, 2018, 8:40 am

Sadly, it’s time to disband the football ranks of the Detroit Public School League in its current form.

Yes, the league that brought you future NFL talents like Jerome Bettis, Gilbert Brown, Rod Hill, Joe Barksdale, Derek Mason, Nick Perry, Dwight Smith and Michael Westbrook, among many others, needs to be taken out to pasture and put out of its misery. At this point, due to a number of contributing factors — the city’s shrinking population, mass school closings and open enrollment — the league is a shadow of its former self and failing to serve the interests of any of its participants. Any true semblance of real competitive balance has been out the window for a while now.

The increasingly dire situation finally came to a head in Week 3 when Detroit Pershing simply walked off the field and forfeited its game against Detroit King after falling behind 27-0 in the first quarter. This is what it has come to. The vast and still-widening chasm (see Detroit East English Village) separating the league’s haves and have-nots is just too extreme.

And when I say the league’s haves and have-nots, I’m speaking of King and Detroit Cass Tech and everyone else.

Cass Tech and King are routinely competing for state championships in Division 1 and 2, respectively and their rosters consistently boast power-conference bound college talent which can and often does reach into the double digits. They have the two biggest student bodies in the PSL and pose the only real threat to one another in terms of raising a league-title banner at the end of any particular season these days. While King’s enrollment is almost 1,500 kids, Pershing is down below 350, hence the Week 3 debacle, which I don’t condone or excuse, but I understand the frustration displayed by Pershing’s players and coaching staff.

The last year that either Cass Tech or King didn’t win the PSL crown was in 2011 when Detroit Crockett took home bragging rights, led by a future NFL player in Tony Lippett. Crockett no longer exists and the kids from that district were merged with Detroit Finney to form East English Village. EEV was relatively competitive until this year when one-time Crocket coach Rod Oden left (with all of his top playmakers) for Harper Woods.

And that, ladies and gentleman, as they say, was really all she wrote. So far this season, EEV has been outscored 159-14. It’s Cass and King all by themselves. Nobody can catch them and nobody will any time soon. To even try, is an exercise in futility.

The rest of the league is trying to scrape together enough wins to maybe qualify for the playoffs and not embarrass themselves against out-of-league postseason foes. Detroit Central was nice the past couple years in Division 5, but that’s about it.

Maybe the answer is to have Cass Tech and King go find other leagues to play in and let the rest of the PSL reform without them. How cool would it be to see Cass Tech or King slugging it out in the OAA Red, MAC Red or Catholic League Central? Or possibly, just as independents a la Birmingham Detroit Country Day?

Whatever the remedy is, things are getting out of hand quick and need addressing. Whatever the remedy is, will be better than what we have on our hands today, King going through a three-week stretch in league action like last September where the Crusaders won their games by a total 150-0 or Cass Tech beating up opponents in a three-week span in 2016 to the tune of 175-0 doesn’t benefit anybody.

We need to rethink the way this thing is built. The way things are right now is doing a grave to disservice, not just to the kids and coaches of the PSL in 2018, but the league’s hallowed history as well.