Local coaches aren’t sold approved changes will help balance
By Kevin Connelly
Change is coming to high school athletics across the state.
After three years of failed attempts and many trips back to the drawing board, the Ohio High School Athletic Association was finally able to announce the approval of a competitive balance referendum Friday afternoon.
In an attempt to account for open enrollment schools competing in different divisions, a multiplier formula will be applied to adjust enrollment numbers for students who don’t live or didn’t grow up in the school district they’re attending.
The new modifying factors will be applied on a sport-by-sport basis and the plan is expected to go into effect at the start of the 2016-17 school year.
What many are wondering now is whether the planned changes create more problems than they solve.
Western Reserve football coach Andy Hake certainly believes so.
“This is not correcting a problem,” Hake said. “The problem is these private school institutions, they put their veil of whatever it is — Christianity or whatever it may be — over the face of the public to justify their schools.
“‘Hey come here; come get this catholic disciplined education’, or whatever it is. This is not a knock on the religion, it’s on the institution, and it’s terrible. It’s lies! ... You mean to tell me all those kids in Youngstown’s north and east side that are going to Ursuline, that that’s their kind of clientele?
“That’s a joke.”
Western Reserve plays in Division VII for football. It’s a public school that has open enrollment, leaving the door open for Hake’s Blue Devils to be moved up a division for any kids on his roster that don’t live in Berlin Center.
“For [the OHSAA] to even say that [Western Reserve and Cardinal Mooney] is the same kind of open enrollment, you’re forcing people to think about, ‘Well maybe I ought to go after kids like they do,’” Hake said. “[Private schools] recruit. Let’s just cut to the chase. Let’s just cut all the [crap]. They recruit. I taught in the city of Youngstown, they absolutely recruit.
“And you know what, it’s a shame they can’t act like men about it and just call it what it is. But they’re cowards. I think it’s cowardly,” Hake said. “And this is like an attempt to try and justify the competitive balance. What kind of [crap] is that?”
Cardinal Mooney plays in Division IV for football. It’s a private catholic school. P.J. Fecko has been leading the Cardinal football program for 14 years and has won four state titles.
Much like his coaching style, he’s taken a much more calm approach to the changes.
“I haven’t read any of it. I don’t even know exactly how it changes things, but it doesn’t matter,” Fecko said. “I’m not anticipating any effects or changes for us, that’s for sure.”
Fecko said the changes will affect open enrollment public schools more than the privates. He noted the number of local public schools that have gone to open enrollment over the last few years and how many out-of-district kids they now have that could have an impact.
“It’s like anything else, when you put together something like this with so many parties involved,” Fecko said. “When the dust settles, there will still be a group of people that it affects in a negative way and they’re probably going to be pretty unhappy about this.”
The modifying factors will be applied as such: If a student has not been continuously enrolled in the district — or a designated “feeder” school(s) for non-public schools — since seventh grade, that student will count more toward the school’s enrollment figures and could cause that school to move up a division.
The modifying factor will depend on the sport the student participates in: two for football, five for volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball, and six for soccer. They vary because of the different number of tournament divisions there are for each sport.
Hake has a laundry list of reasons why he doesn’t agree with the changes, but instead he has a different solution. And it’s not one that appears on the horizon any time soon.
“Mr. Ross got it all wrong,” Hake said. “I call for separation until they fix it. I call for absolute separation, because this has been going on for 60 years and that’s the formula that they come up with? Just separate.”