Let’s wait and see on competitive balance

Be careful what you wish for. After years of voting and haggling and debating and complaining, competitive balance is here in Ohio high school sports.

Will it work? We will pretty much have to wait and see.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association this past week released the divisional breakdown for the coming fall sports season, covering the sports of football, boys and girls soccer and volleyball.

The 2017-18 school year is the first in which the OHSAA’s competitive balance policy will be used to determine in what division a particular school will play. Winter sports (boys and girls basketball) divisional lists will be released in June and the spring sports (baseball and softball) alignment will come out in August.

For those who haven’t been following, here is a brief (well, more like condensed) version of what has brought us to where we are now.

For many years coaches, administrators, parents, etc., who are affiliated with public schools have complained that non-public schools — mostly parochial, but more recently including other types of private schools — have an advantage in that students from outside a particular area could attend one of those non-public schools.

Public school folks complained that every once in a while, at their particular school, a group of solid athletes coming up through the junior high ranks would suddenly be broken up when one or two of them suddenly started attending the local parochial high school.

Another complaint came often after a public school, with its best team in years in a particular sport, is eliminated at the regional level by a non-public school that has a team loaded with future Division I college players.

The “R” word — recruiting — often has been tossed around in discussions about the situation. When open enrollment came along, some said it evened the playing field, while others said more needed to be done.

After three unsuccessful attempts to enact a new policy through a voter referendum of schools throughout the state, the current policy finally passed the vote of the schools in 2014.

Here’s how it works. After the usual enrollment figures for all schools in the state are gathtered, the previous season’s roster data (grades 9-12) is used for affecting the following season’s additional roster count in the selected sports. The additional roster count is added to the school’s base enrollment number to determine the final adjusted enrollment count before divisional placements are made.

Each sport’s roster is considered separately, so that a school may be affected more in one sport than in another. Students who attend a school but do not live in the district’s georgraphic borders, count extra for the school when adjusting the enrollment figure. Parochial schools are assigned a so-called feeder middle school, and students who have not attended that school will increase the enrollment by various degrees.

In short, the more so-called “outsiders” a school sports teams has on its roster, the more that school’s adjusted enrollment figure for that sport will increase. In many cases, that increase in adjusted enrollment will push the school up into the next division where it will compete with schools that have a larger raw enrollment.

According to the OHSAA, of the 718 schools that play football in Ohio, 75 schools moved up to a higher division due to competitive balance and/or a higher base enrollment number. In volleyball (790 schools), 51 moved up a division. In girls soccer (522 schools), 24 moved up a division, while in boys soccer (571 schools), 30 moved up a division.

Locally, both Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline would have, based on their raw enrollment numbers, dropped from Division IV into Division V in football. However, both will remain in Division IV this fall because their roster adjustments under competitive balance pushed them back up into D-IV.

Will everyone be pleased by the new process? Obviously not, but hopefully it is a step in the right direction.

Just about everyone involved is aware that if competitive balance does not work, one of the other options out there is separate organizations and competition for public and non-public schools in the state.

There are very few people involved in high school sports who would like to see that happen.