OHSAA nixes public-private vote

COLUMBUS – With the vote to separate the private and public school tournaments just six weeks away, it was announced on Friday at the Ohio High School Athletic Association boys’ basketball tournament that the proposal has been pulled off the table and will not go to a vote.

Instead, a new competitive balance referendum will be placed on a ballot, which is scheduled to be voted on between May 1 and May 15. A majority vote is needed for the issue to pass from the 826 member schools.

“There was a referendum item on to split the tournaments into separate public and non-public tournaments,” said Dr. Daniel B. Ross, Commissioner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association. “We’ve been having conversations with the originators of that proposal from Wayne County in looking to see if there would be an option we could put on the ballot that would maybe encourage them to pull the separation of tournaments off the ballot if this proposal would be accepted by our board.”

The OHSAA board of directors accepted the competitive balance proposal on Friday morning and in turn it was accepted by the Wayne County superintendents – the originators of the separation petition.

Though the Wayne County superintendents were the catalysts behind the original proposal, they are in total favor of the new agreement. In attendance at Friday’s press conference representing the group were Triway Superintendent Dave Rice and Dalton Superintendent Scott Beatty. Rice was one of the original petitioners of the public-private issue.

“I do believe in my heart of hearts this is a better proposal than the separate tournaments proposal,” Rice said. “And I thank them for honoring my request to pull that separate tournament proposal.

“Anything that you’ve ever read or seen that came out of an interview with me, I’ve said that separating the tournaments was not the ultimate goal. But just like Dr. Ross said, if we hadn’t gone down that path, we wouldn’t be sitting here today talking about this proposal.”

If passed, the sports the referendum would affect are football, soccer and volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball and softball in the spring. Also to be considered for further discussion is team wrestling.

The new proposal is strictly focused on the enrollment numbers of the school and then takes into account the players on the rosters for each sport. Similar proposals in the past for competitive balance included socio-economic factors as well as team traditions. Neither of the two are factors in the current petition.

For public schools, the formula will begin with the original enrollment of the school district. Then, teams are required to turn in rosters to the OHSAA, which will be public record. Based on the players on the roster from grades nine through 12, it will be figured which students live in the district and which students come from outside the district. For every player who does not live in the school district on the roster, a multiplier number to be determined later will be factored in to the total number of players from outside the district. After the number is calculated – players times multiplier – it will become the new enrollment figure assigned to the team.

For private schools, the formula stays the same, but instead of the school district being applied, the players who are to be multiplied are ones who live out of the attendance zone. For example, any John F. Kennedy player who lives in the Warren school district would not be given a multiplier. If an athlete who attends JFK were to live in any other school district but Warren, that player would be put into the multiplier category.

The multiplier number will differ for each sport. For football, the number will likely be set at two due to the roster size of football teams. For basketball, the smallest team sport, the number will be set at five. The other sports will have a number between the two-and-five range.

So, if a basketball roster, from freshman through varsity, has 30 players on it and 25 live in the school district, the other five players will be multiplied by five to equal 25. If the school has an original enrollment of 200, the new enrollment number would be 225.

Because of this, some schools would jump up in divisions, while some would stay the same. However, Ross, Rice and Beatty all feel this is the best way to make the playing field more competitive for all parties involved.

“There are a lot of things to be worked out,” Beatty said. “I believe it’s a very good start, it’s very fair. It holds both public schools and non-public schools accountable.

“People say, ‘Is this going to work? Is this going to fix everything?’ The answer is no, there will never be a perfect fix. As long as our society, as long as everyone in Ohio and across the country puts athletics at the fullest extent and looks for the pot of gold at the end of an athletic journey, it just doesn’t exist. And we’re going to struggle with this. But we can’t change society.”

Because of having to wait for rosters to be set to determine the enrollment number for each sport, divisions would not be assigned until after the athletic seasons were to begin. Also, it would mean that divisions could change from year to year based on the roster makeup. The OHSAA would still calculate actual enrollment every two years like it does currently.

If passed, the new system would go into effect for the 2015-16 school year. Also if passed, the 2013-14 season would be a trial system with 200-250 schools going through a pilot program, then the following year every school would be put through the pilot.

All parties agreed that there is a lot of work to still be done if the issue was to pass, and that problems will always arise. At the end of the day, all three men stand by the fact that this is the best solution and the most fair for all schools – from the biggest Division I school, down to the smallest private school.

“I hope people can get behind this new proposal, support it, give the organization a chance to implement it and give it some time to function as we think it will,” Beatty said.