What happens if OHSAA proposal fails?

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By Doug Chapin


A close vote is expected on a proposed change to Ohio High School Athletic Assocation bylaws, a so-called competitive balance referendum issue.

But the huge elephant in the room is the possibility down the road of separate postseason tournaments for public and non-public schools — or a complete separation altogether.

“My concern is if the other one (separate tournaments) had passed they were kind of like opening up a can of worms. I would be afraid that you would force a split and if you force a split, who is going to be the NCAA or the OHSAA of the split groups,” Youngstown Christian School athletic director Dolph Carroll said. “Who would govern them? If you have a split you’re going to have a lot of upset people that are going to say they want nothing more to do with the OHSAA. If that happens, you think there’s recruiting going on now, and transferring going on now. There would be no governing body, that’s my biggest concern.”

High school principals across the state are voting on the competitive balance issue through May 15. The proposal would, if passed, 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 change would not go into effect until the 2015-16 school year.

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 That issue was put forward and then withdrawn in favor of the current proposal by Dave Rice, superintendent of schools of the Triway district in Wayne County.

The separate postseason referendum issue is certain to return if the current proposal is turned down.

“I would have to go through and collect the signatures again,” Rice said about the petition process required to put the issue on the ballot next year.

“If the (current) proposal passes it won’t take effect immediately and we will spend the next couple years getting ready for that. There are still a lot of things that need to be ironed out,” said Tim Stried, director of information services for the OHSAA. “In fact that’s one of the negative things we have heard about this, there are a lot of uncertain things. We will need to start working on it right away.

“If it doesn’t pass we know Dave Rice and his group will go forward and the question at that point will be, ‘Does (OHSAA) Commissioner (Daniel B.) Ross choose to either try to come to a compromise agreement again like we did this time, or does he not try to come up with a compromise and let the separation proposal go to ballot.”

There are plenty of uncertainties regarding the separate tournaments issue should it eventually be approved.

“The idea of separate tournaments, as time went on there were some concerns that came up,” Rice said. “For example, the OHSAA said it wouldn’t be able to sponsor certain championships if they split up. We didn’t want to be a part of something that would deny kids the opportunity to compete for a state championship.”

Not sponsoring a few championships might be the least of the OHSAA’s worries if the separate tournaments issue passes.

“Cost would be an issue. The OHSAA could not just add an entire additional set of tournaments. That would, in effect, bankrupt us,” Strid said “The membership doesn’t want that either. The membership gets a lot of benefits and they would understand we can’t create something that is essentially going to cause us to go bankrupt. What that means is that, and we made this pretty clear when the proposal was active for separation, we most likely would cease to sponsor several sports, those with small numbers of schools participating.

“The other thing is if we would have to conduct state tournaments with separate divisions for public schools and private schools we most likely would not continue to have as many diivsions for the two sides as we currently do. For example, this fall we are going to seven divisions in football. If we had to to a separate football tournament for both the public schools and the private schools we most likely would have four divisions for public schools and two divisions for private schools. In basketball maybe we would have three divisions for public schools and one for private.”

Another possibility looming on the horizon would be a complete split between public schools and non-public schools.

“There have been quite a few non-public schools that have said exactly what you just said. They would seek to form an association with their own bylaws, their own rules. The scenario you just named would happen, we are sure it would happen,” Stried said.

“Now, the question would be how many private shcools would leave the OHSAA to join the other association, that would be a question mark. But they would do that and, not only recruiting, but what’s to stop them from giving grant aid or scholarships to kids. You can just imagine the chaos that would ensue. And you know what I think, most public schools realize that and they don’t want separation either. If they think they are losing a kid or two now to non-public schools, just think if they were going up against an organizing body in which it was permitted.”

Of course one other possibility is that neither the competitive balance proposal passes this year nor the separate tournaments issue next year. What then?

“I tell you what I think, if this doesn’t pass and separation doesn’t pass I think that is saying that the majority of the membership have not yet seen a proposal that they think is a solution,” Stried said.

“It seems if this one doesn’t pass they will just go back to the basic proposal,” Boardman High principal Tim Saxton said. “If that one is voted down then maybe this will just go away for another 10 or 15 years. They’re trying to address the issue but if you just keep voting them down, what do you want?”

Rice, who said he does not think the separate tournaments issue would pass if on the ballot this year, put it more succinctly.

“I’m hopeful, but I’ve told the OHSAA if this doesn’t pass and we come back with a separate tournament and that doesn’t pass, then people just need to shut up and quit complaining.”

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