OHSAA poses new competitive balance proposal

The Ohio High School Athletic Association is taking another shot at competitive balance.

The OHSAA Board of Directors announced on Tuesday that it is introducing a modified proposal to schools, one similar to the referendum that was narrowly voted down last spring, but this one includes a major change.

If passed, the motion would change the way schools are placed in divisions in an effort to level the playing field. The new scenario would be in force for football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball if it is approved by high school principals in a vote this May.

“I’m extremely pleased with the plan that the committee has recommended and the board has approved,” said OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross in a press release. “While the proposal is similar to last year’s, the modified version is the result of a compilation of input from our superintendents, principals, athletic administrators and coaches.”

Principals vote on the proposal between May 1 and May 15. Results are expected to be released May 16.

Similar propositions have been posed during the last three years, but each was voted down by a slim margin – last year’s by 19 votes. This year’s approach still takes the school’s enrollment into consideration, but it also factors in where a student’s parents or guardians live and whether that student has been part of the same educational system since seventh grade. If the player’s parents live outside of the school district, or the student has not been at the same academic institution since seventh grade, the school’s enrollment figures increase by two to five, depending on the sport. Those figures would then be added to the enrollment numbers used to determine a school’s classification.

Non-public schools will face the same criteria if students did not attend the school’s “feeder” institution or local public district. Schools may designate their feeder or local public school every two years.

The proposal will require schools to submit their team rosters of student-athletes in grades 9 through 12 to the OHSAA. If passed, the measure would likely go into effect during the 2016-17 school year.

Local athletic directors were glad to hear the 27-member competitive balance committee is continuing to forge new ideas, but there are still several questions to be answered.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Howland athletic director Ron McCleary said. “One of the concerns is how they’re going to implement it. As far as open-enrollment kids, legislators are now allowing students who are going to charter schools and are home schooled to participate in sports. If the school doesn’t offer it, or a kid is home schooled, you can participate for the school district you live in. So, it will be interesting to see how they implement it.”

The OHSAA staff will provide further details of the proposal and answer questions during annual town hall meetings (formerly known as athletic discussion meetings) in April. The OHSAA travels to different regions during these events and meets with administrators. Besides the four face-to-face meetings, plans are being finalized to also discuss the proposal during online sessions.

Weathersfield schools superintendent Damon Dohar admits he’s not a big fan of competitive balance. The problem he sees is that the view of the OHSAA is a bit skewed.

“They’re putting open enrollment in the same breath as a private school that can recruit from anywhere,” Dohar said. “These competitive balance issues are tough to answer because everyone has a story.”