Competitive balance is again being considered
By Doug Chapin
A proposal to change the Ohio High School Athletic Association bylaws being voted on now by high school principals across the state is seen as a solution to a perceived problem of competitive imbalance.
There are some who question if there even is a problem and whether or not the proposed changes, if passed, would solve the problem.
Todd Jones, chair of the Achievement Committee of the State Board of Education, wrote a lengthy letter last week to OHSAA Commissioner Daniel B. Ross requesting answers to questions about the so-called competitive balance proposal on the ballot.
The proposal, if passed, 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 district 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 proposal, approved in March by the OHSAA Board of Directors, replaced a referendum issue that would have resulted in, if passed, separate postseason tournaments for public and non-public schools.
“As I look at the issue, the first group of questions I put forth really are probably the most fundamental to the issue and that is the proposal is a policy that has been developed to address a problem,” Jones said. “The proposed change doesn’t say specifically what is the problem, how do you measure it, how do you know if this change is going to fix it.
“There is a lot of talk about issues of competitive balance. I don’t know, I’m not offering, I don’t know what the answer here is, I would suggest that I don’t even know what the problem here is. Although people talk about that issue a lot there is a lot of ways of describing what the problem is but is there in fact a problem.”
Tim Stried, OHSAA director of information services, said a survey conducted by school superintendents in Wayne County highlighted the perceived problem.
“Five years ago, the group of superintendents from Wayne County began surveying the member schools,” STreid said. “There were a couple different surveys. Approximately two-thirds of the membership said they believe there was a competitive imbalance in Ohio.
“From 2000 to 2010 in our team sports, state championships were won at a 43 percent clip by non-public schools even though non-public schools make up about 19 percent of our membership. With that data the majority, about two-thirds, of the membership believed there was a problem.
“That data then is what fueled the Wayne County group to continue to push this issue. That is the data that led to the OHSAA’s first two competitive-balance proposals that failed (in 2011 and 2012). When those failed the group from Wayne County said, ‘Well, you’ve tried it twice, now it’s our turn,’ and that is when they created the petition and got the separation [proposal] on the ballot.”
Stried said there is no projected percentage of championships by non-public schools that would constitute “success” for the proposed policy.
“There is not a number or a percentage of state championships that, quote unquote, should be won by non-public schools. That has never even come up,” he said.
“I think a lot of people think that we think the number of championships should be proportional to their makeup in the membership. We haven’t even thought like that. There is not a magic number like that.
“All I can tell you is that in the surveys that both the Wayne County group did and the OHSAA, we did our own surveys as well, the majority of the membership felt like there was a problem. That is what has fueled all of this.”
The perception of a problem seems to diminish the larger the schools in question.
“Being a Division I program we’re just kind of used to playing against the St. Edwards and St. Ignatiuses,” Boardman High principal Tim Saxton said. “In talking to some of the other people in the Federal League, to them the public vs. private issue is no big deal.
“I understand the situation with some of the smaller schools in Wayne County — that’s where this is coming from. You have a great season, the season of a decade, the whole community is unified, and you get into the first round of the playoffs and lose 56-7. I understand their pain and their desire to address that.”
Another factor affecting intensity of feeling about the perceived problem is geography, according to Dave Rice, superintendent of schools for the Triway district in Wayne County. He spearheaded the petition effort to get the separate tournaments issue on the ballot.
“It depends on what part of the state you’re talking about. In northeast Ohio there is a very strong feeling for separate tournaments. In central Ohio, eastern Ohio, southeast Ohio it is very weak. We barely got enough signatures to meet the requirement,” he said.
“The problem with any solution is it’s not going to satisfy everyone’s wants and desires. What people have to understand is that if this gets approved, let’s give it some time to get implemented and see what the impact is over time. And then if something needs to be tweaked from there ... we have to start down some road some time with change.”