OHSAA adds a division, starting in 2013
By Rob todor
The first domino in what could be sweeping changes to high school athletics in Ohio fell on Thursday.
In a somewhat unexpected move, the Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Control approved the addition of a seventh division in football.
The move by the OHSAA, which oversees all governance for high school and middle school athletics in the state, means the 72 largest boys enrollment schools in Ohio will remain Division I for football.
That group includes the four largest schools in the Mahoning Valley — East, Warren Harding, Austintown Fitch and Boardman.
The rest of the state’s football-playing schools — 644 — will be equally divided among the other six divisions.
The move means:
The number of schools in Division I football drops from 118 to 72. Thirty-two teams will still qualify for the playoffs.
The average number of schools in the remaining six divisions will decrease from 120 to 108. Thirty-two teams will qualify for the playoffs in each division.
Nearly 75 percent of the football-playing schools in the Valley — 30 of 44 — will switch divisions when the change is implemented for the 2013 season.
Boardman coach Mark D’Eramo is not happy.
“I was really hoping they were going to split Division I in half,” said D’Eramo. That was a proposal first discussed in February, which was not supported by the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association.
“We [Boardman] will still be one of the smallest schools in Division I,” said D’Eramo, “so this won’t help us. We’re still going to have to go up against the big Division I public schools and big private schools.
“It kind of puts us behind the eight ball, but we’ve always won and lost with Boardman kids and we will continue to do so.”
Following the February meeting, several OHSAA committees continued to study the various proposals and on Thursday the OHSAA had the support of the football coaches association for the option that was approved, according to OHSAA spokesperson Tim Stried.
However, with the controversial Competitive Balance Proposal coming up in May for a referendum vote, the disparity among Division I football schools was a front-burner issue.
Under the current alignment, the disparity in enrollment between the state’s largest school (Cincinnati St. Xavier, with 1,164 male students) and the smallest Division I football school (Avon Lake, with 494) was larger than the biggest Division II school and the smallest school in Division VI.
The new alignment will close that gap significantly. Using the current enrollment figures provided by the OHSAA, the smallest school in the new Division I would be Cleveland Lincoln West, with 600 students.
Boardman — which does not have open enrollment of any kind — would be the 12th-smallest school in Division I, with 620 students. Austintown Fitch, with 633, and Warren Harding, with 688, would also be among the smallest 26 schools in the revamped Division I. Fitch does not have any open enrollment, while Harding has state-wide open enrollment, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
“I’ve always said, in a public high school, every 10 years you get a team that may be able to compete [for a state championship],” said D’Eramo. “This will just make it even harder.”
In the new proposal, Howland and Canfield would drop from Division II to Division III; five schools, including Cardinal Mooney, would drop from Division III to Division IV, and 23 other schools would also fall one division.
While no one from the OHSAA would confirm it on the record, the Division I football issue has been seen as a paramount hurdle to get the Competitive Balance Proposal passed.
It was first sent to the membership last May and failed by less than 30 votes, 322-303. Some of the feedback was that the proposal didn’t address the disparity in Division I enrollments.
That’s been taken care of, with Thursday’s action.
The Competitive Balance’s other controversial issue was a “tradition” factor, in which schools would have their base enrollment increased a percentage based on how far each particular varsity team advanced in the state tournament.
Ursuline, for example, would have it’s enrollment for football increased by six percent based on its three state championships from 2008-10.
The original proposal would have kicked in the tradition factor based on the school’s previous four seasons. The revised proposal will trigger the tradition factor if a football team advanced to the regional semifinals in four of the past eight seasons, and 10 percent if the team advanced to the state semifinals.
Other factors, dealing with open enrollment and the number of free- and reduced-lunches provided, would also affect the base enrollment.