Ohio Supreme Court allows case against OHSAA
Lawsuit challenges competitive balance formula for determining divisions
By Brian Dzenis
A decision by Ohio’s Supreme Court doesn’t affect many high schools in the Mahoning Valley, but a few area coaches are keeping an eye on a Cincinnati-based athletic league’s fight against the OHSAA’s competitive balance rules.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 decision to allow a Hamilton County judge to consider the Greater Catholic League Coed Division and Roger Bacon High School’s lawsuit against the OHSAA.
The OHSAA argued that the courts couldn’t interfere with bylaws voted on by member schools.
The plaintiffs are challenging Ohio’s high school sports governing body on its formula that determines which divisions schools compete in for state championships. Divisions are determined based on the residencies and which system of education a student comes from. For non-public schools, kids who come from the same system of education since seventh grade, but not a “feeder school” as Tier 1. Then there’s Tier 2 students who did not have a continuous enrollment in the same education system.
“For example, if we have a a parochial student who doesn’t necessarily live in Warren and he’s been a parochial student since he’s been in school, he still counts as a Tier 2 athlete,” Warren JFK coach Jeff Bayuk said. “To me, that’s insane. The parents make a commitment to get their son a Catholic education when there may not have been a Catholic school in their town. I don’t get that.”
Those Tier 1 and 2 numbers are added to the actual enrollment numbers to determine their competitive balance score.
The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that Roger Bacon’s enrollment includes 182 boys for 2019, which would make them a Division V school for football. With competitive balance math, 58 is added to its enrollment and pushes it up to D-IV. The competitive balance system was created to address concerns about athletic dominance by private schools.
The Mahoning Valley has four parochial schools: Cardinal Mooney, Ursuline, Valley Christian and Warren JFK. When the classifications for the 2019-20 school year were set in early June, none were impacted by the competitive balance formula. Mooney and Ursuline are D-IV and VC and JFK are D-VII schools.
“I don’t really have an opinion because we’re already a small school,” Valley Christian head coach Jomont Ware said. “We’ve got 74 boys in our school and 35 are playing football and we’re playing in a league with teams like [D-VI] Mogadore and [D-V] Rootstown.”
Bayuk has a similar sentiment as Ware as his team will see little change from how things transpire in a Hamilton County courthouse, but he does sympathize with Roger Bacon.
“The state of Ohio says you can go another school — whether it’s private or open enrollement at a public school — they say you have the freedom to choose where you want your child to be educated. You couple that with what the OHSAA says about extracurriculars being vital to a kid’s education,” Bayuk said. “If that’s the case, why is it even an issue if a kid goes to a Catholic school or an open-enrollment school?
“In a broader sense, you don’t really need to have the competitive balance numbers.”