Previous efforts to tweak have failed
By Doug Chapin
The consensus seems to be that there is no consensus.
High school principals throughout Ohio will cast a vote between now and May 15 on a proposed change to the bylaws of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
The so-called competitive balance proposal would increase the enrollment figure used for placement in team sport postseason competition based on the number of roster players who are from outside that school’s disrict or designated attendance zone, and an as yet undetermined multiplier.
The net effect of the proposal would be that on a sport-by-sport basis the more student-athletes on a roster who are from outside the school’s district, the better the chance that team would be moved up a division or two for postseason play.
The referendum proposal was approved by the OHSAA Board of Directors in March in place of a vote on whether to have separate postseason tournaments for public and non-public schools. That issue was put forward and then withdrawn by Dave Rice, superintendent of schools of the Triway district in Wayne County.
“It’s only a one-fold multiplier and that means it just deals with students that are open-enrolled or from outside your high school district boundaries and it only deals with the athletes,” Rice said. “It’s not total enrollment, it’s just the number of, let’s just use football for an example, football players that you have on your roster that are from outside your school district. Very simple and easy to understand.”
The vote is expected to be close with possible unintended consequences no matter the result of the balloting.
“Reaction has been mixed and I think this points to the fact that the vote is going to be close. It is really kind of 50-50 right now,” said Tim Stried, director of information services for the OHSAA. “Some folks offer the feedback that they like it and a lot of those folks realize that this is the proposal in place of the separation.
“That is kind of what drove this. We didn’t want separate tournaments and we had to come up with a new proposal. There are some people who really like the proposal because it points directly at the heart of the matter which is that on the team’s roster what geographic area do your kids come from.”
How did we get here?
Proposals calling for all OHSAA tournaments to be conducted separately for public and non-public schools failed to pass in 1978 (84 percent against) and in 1993 (67 percent against).
In 2011 and 2012, two similar competitive balance formulas which included factors such as socioeconomics and tradition were narrowly defeated (52.3 percent against in 2011 and 53 percent in 2012).
“The Wayne County superintendents, about three years ago or so, did a statewide survey of superintendents and the survey came back that there should be change. Basically the change laid in two camps, either separate tournaments or some kind of a multiplier kind of thing,” Rice said. “So we met with [OHSAA Commissioner] Dan [Ross], formed the competitive balance committee and I was on that.
“The last two years we’ve tried referendums that frankly, I think, were too complicated, they involved multi-multipliers and they failed.
“So last spring I decided to do a signature petition for separate tournaments. However, once we submitted that we never stopped working on ideas here in Wayne County and we came up with an idea in February.
“We talked with Dr. Ross and worked out some of the details. The board agreed to adopt that, put it on as a referendum item. That was Friday of the boys state basketball tournament and once they took that action I agreed to pull the petition for separate tournament.”
Putting the idea of separate tournaments up for a vote again is a concern for the OHSAA.
“Part of what really caused us to want to get to the table with Dave and his group is that we felt that it would be a close vote [on separation] which is kind of scary,” Streid said.
“When it went to a vote in 1978 it failed by a 3-1 vote, when it lost in 1993 it was a 2-1 count,” Stried said. “The margin is getting narrower and the feedback we had received this most recent time, we hoped that it would not pass but we thought it would be close.
“If we thought separation would have overwhelmingly failed I don’t think we would have worried as much about it. But we think it would have been close.”
The referendum process
Referendum voting among OHSAA members is a routine annual event. It takes place every year from May 1-15 and each school has one vote, cast by its principal. Usually there are anywhere from six or seven to sometimes 15 or 16 items on the ballot, Stried said.
Most items are as routine as making minor wording changes in bylaws, but still those must be approved by the membership.
“Another way to get an item on the referendum ballot is a mechanism that is allowed in our constitution and that is through petitioning member schools,” Stried said. “That is what happened last fall with an item that was put on the ballot that would split the postseason tournaments into one for public schools and one for private schools.”
Petitioners must get 75 total signatures and a certain number must come from each of the six districts in the state.
“We are now a few days into the current voting period. Right now schools are voting on this proposal, the competitive balance issue, and the OHSAA does hope that it passes,” Stried said. “In our opinion — is it perfect, no — but it is a lot better than separating public and private schools into different divisions.
“If we had not come up with this proposal that is what schools would be voting on right now and we think the vote would have been close. We also think the vote will be close with this new one and we hope it passes.”
Though school principals cast the vote most will hold discussions with athletic directors and superintendents.
“I presented the information to our athletic director and the superintendent and we discussed it at a coaches meeting. Ultimately its more about how they feel,” Boardman High principal Tim Saxton said. “They seemed comfortable with it, though there were some objections. I would say that the majority of the people understood it and thought it was a good step.
“There is no perfect formula but I think it’s a step in the right direction. The way they have it worded gives them a few years to tweak the formula.”
about the proposal
The OHSAA conducted more than a dozen informational meetings throughout the state to provide information to school administrators and coaches.
“I had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Ross, the commissioner, at one of the local meetings they held,” Saxton said. “I had a chance to pick his brain and I just liked what he said. They’re trying to do the right thing and maybe this can be a start.
“The key is getting some hard numbers out there, right now the numbers are soft since the enrollment figures just came out. It will be nice to see some sort of projection. It’s hard to vote when you don’t have those projections, some people are just guesstimating.
That’s what scares some people, not having hard numbers, but it is still a step in the right direction.”
Saxton said the current proposal is more straightforward than the previous attempts.
“The most recent proposal, which included a socio-economic factor and a success factor, I think was just too much. I thought that one was a little too complicated,” he said. “I think people didn’t really understand and I think some people were really uncomfortable with the success factor.
“This one is a little cleaner. It says, ‘Hey, if these kids don’t live in your district and they are on your sports team then they will be subject to the multiplier and will affect your enrollment numbers.’”
WILL IT PASS?
The web site JJ Huddle surveyed athletic directors throughout the state, asking how their school was going to vote. With nearly 200 responses received back by Friday, the percentage voting against the issue was 55.3.
“You never know [how the vote will go] because you don’t know what the factions are on the outside looking in. Everybody thinks there’s one easy solution to this and I’m not sure there is,” Youngstown Christian School athletic director Dolph Carroll said. “It really comes down to seeing what’s going on. What’s the problem?
“And I think probably the biggest problem is you’ve got a lot of private schools winning the tournaments. So what’s a viable solution that is fair and equitable to everybody?
“I know they’ve been working on this for years and years and years but there has to be a means to sit everybody down and say, ‘OK, what is the issue and what are solutions that you have other than splitting. Is there anything out there that we can come up with?’
“I don’t know if there is,” he said. “What they have right now with the formula that can bump you up to another division for the playoffs, that might be the best solution they can come up with right now.”
Saxton said feedback at the informational meeting he attended tended to be negative.
“I was surprised by some of the negativity [at the meeting]. If I had to guess, based on that small snapshot at that meeting, I would say I don’t think it’s going to pass. Some of the public schools that were there, I talked to some of the principals, and I don’t know,” he said. “Every school situation is unique but I think some of the Division II schools are worried that some of the powerhouses from Division IV are going to move up to Division II.
“Everyone is going to have their own personal bias. You will never have a formula that satisfied everyone. I think what you have to ask is ‘Is it fair?’ And if it’s fair then I think you have to give them credit for trying to address the situation.”
Rice acknowledged that uncertainty about details of the plan could affect voters.
“The only thing they don’t know is what the multiplier will be. The concept is there, the multipliers are not etched in stone, but that’s the only unknown,” he said. “But the OHSAA said they would get a competitive balance committee back together and determine what it would be.
“We’ve said this right from the very beginning. If this passes and they don’t do the right thing then shame on them.
“If they throw numbers in there that aren’t going to cause movement — and let’s just say what it is — if private schools are not moved up a division or two then we’ve all wasted our time. At that point, you’re going to have enough people ticked off that they’re going to vote for separate tournaments.”