The Ohio High School Athletic Association recently revealed new divisional breakdowns for fall sports, with most schools remaining in their current divisions, but some moving up or down based on enrollment numbers.

The breakdowns, which apply to all fall sports, include for the first time competitive balance roster data in football, volleyball and soccer. With the competitive balance data, the OHSAA believes schools will compete in the most fair division for each program, according to OHSAA commissioner Dr. Dan Ross.

“This is a journey that we have been on for more than eight years to get to this point,” Ross said. “Today’s approval of the fall sports divisional breakdowns is the result of countless hours of work by our staff and our member schools. For the first time in OHSAA history, enrollment isn’t the only factor in determining a school’s division in certain sports. But the journey isn’t over. We will study the results of this first go-around and discuss with the Competitive Balance Committee and the board.” 

The OHSAA’s board of directors approved the changes during its April meeting, with the new divisional breakdowns based on school enrollment numbers provided by the Ohio Department of Education, and then modified in football, volleyball and soccer based on competitive balance factors that OHSAA member schools approved by referendum vote in 2014. 

Competitive balance regulations use the previous season’s roster data for grades 9-12 for affecting the following season’s additional roster count in the selected sports. That roster count is added to the school’s base enrollment number to determine the final adjusted enrollment count before divisional placements are made.

The sport most impacted by the new rules is football, where 75 of the 718 schools that play the sport in Ohio moved up to a higher division due to either competitive balance or a higher base enrollment number. The numbers were smaller in volleyball, where just 51 of 790 schools moved up a division, girls soccer (24 of 522 schools) and boys soccer (30 of 571 schools). 

The Federal League saw a definite impact in football, as Hoover moved down from Division I to Division II and Perry, which reached the last two Division II state championship games, moved up to Division I.

“It surprised me because we were Division II when I got here, then we got bumped up and were the second-smallest Division I school last season,” Hoover head coach Brian Baum said.

Under the new divisional alignments, four Federal League schools (Canton McKinley, GlenOak, Jackson and Perry) are Division I, while Hoover, Lake and Green are Division II.

The meaning of divisional assignments within the league hasn’t proven to be of much consequence in recent years. Perry, playing in Division II, won the league last season and Lake, which has remained anchored in Division II, has been a regular contender for the league title for much of the past two decades.

“It just depends on who you have playing football for you in any given year,” Baum said. “McKinley was the biggest school in the league last year and they didn’t win it, but Perry was Division II and they did.”

Another reason the meaning of divisional residency is minor stems from the fact that during the course of the regular season, the subject doesn’t come into play. Only when a team makes the playoffs does its division have a substantial impact, a fact underscored by Hoover’s schedule for next season. The Vikings have four Division I teams on the schedule and three each from Division II and III.

Furthermore, many seasons feature talented teams from a lower division that most coaches believe could not only compete, but win in the next division up. 

“Back in 2010, I had a very good public school team and I scouted a Division V team, (Youngstown) Ursuline, and they may have had the most talent of any team in any division even though they were Division V,” Baum said. “Some years, the best Division II team is as good as any Division I team and other years, you have a Division I team like (Cincinnati) Moeller or St. Ignatius that just dominates everybody.”

According to Baum, being in Division II won’t affect which schools Hoover schedules for its non-league games going forward. Moving down a division means leaving a loaded playoff region that included St. Ignatius, Lakewood St. Edward, Stow, Mentor and other Northeast Ohio powers, but it also means moving into a region that will likely include defending Division III state champions Hoban, as the Knights moved up a division in the new alignment.

The regional assignments will be announced in June, but as they prepare for a return to Division II, the Vikings have a simple reality in front of them.

“Ultimately, you just have to take care of your schedule and get there,” Baum said of the postseason. 

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