Dr. Dan Ross, the commissioner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, is by all accounts well-liked. That is, in no small part owing to his ability as an administrator, but also because he’s a people person.
He’s also extremely smart, and is judicious as in when to make a statement and when to, for lack of a better term, shut up.
So it was a little out of character on Thursday when Ross talked about the failed Competitive Balance referendum. His frustration was evident.
“We had a committee work on this referendum for two years,” Ross said. “It was a balance of public and non-public school officials, and at those first couple meetings you could cut the [tension] with a chainsaw.
“But if that committee was seated here today I’d defy you to identify which folks were from a public school and which were from a non-public school.”
Speaking to cooperation and single goal mindset of the Competitive Balance Committee was a stark contrast to the voting.
“I’d say the major difference was that the committee looked at competitive balance as ‘what’s good for all the kids of Ohio’ and the school principals voted as to what was best for their kids.
“That isn’t necessarily a surprise to us, nor was the closeness of the vote.”
The referendum failed by 38 votes — nine more votes than a similar ballot in 2011 — but the issue is far from dead.
Ross expects a referendum vote again next May, but that one could come from a group headed by superintendents in Wayne County who want separate tournaments for public and non-public schools.
There have been two previous attempts to split the publics and privates. In 1978 the proposal failed with 83.9 percent of principals voting against it. In 1993 that figure dropped to 66.8 percent.
Ross said high school principals were surveyed in the fall and of those responding, 53 percent were against a split tournament and 43 were for it.
The group advocating a split tournament use schools like Cleveland St. Ignatius and Hathaway Brown, which attract students from a large metropolitan area, as having an unfair advantage over public schools with a defined boundary.
There’s some validity to that argument, but not enough to go the extreme of a split tournament.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, 425 of the state’s 664 public school districts, or 64 percent, have statewide open enrollment.
That certainly levels the playing field.
Then there’s the dreaded “R” word.
Charges of recruiting have been around as long as there’s been organized sports.
Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline get the brunt of it locally, but for every story we’ve heard about those schools there’s been an equal number about public school coaches calling players from other schools.
Leveling a recruiting charge is one thing; proving it is another matter.
Hopefully, school leaders around the state can ultimately find a working solution.
A split tournament is the worst possible solution.