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). 

Among schools in The Suburbanite’s coverage area, the only one to move up a division is Mogadore, a four-time state champion - including 1996 and 2002 titles in its new-yet-old home in Division VI. After playing the last two seasons in the newly created Division VII, the Wildcats have bumped back up to Division VI, a move that was expected prior the OHSAA’s announcement.

“My inital thought is that you’ve always got to worry about your region and area first and it’s hard to talk about it too much until they come out with the regions (in June),” 13th-year head coach Matt Adorni said.

Adorn noted that while Division VI is familiar for his program, what will be different this time around is the glut of top-notch, small-school programs also in the division. Kirtland has been a regular title contender the past few seasons, but now, many of the schools in the Midwest Athletic Conference - located in western Ohio - will also be in Division VI.

One of those schools, Fort Recovery, defeated Mogadore in the 2015 Division VII state championship game. Maria Stein Marion Local, which has reached the past six Division VI state championship games, winning five, remains in the division, but has been joined by MAC rival Coldwater, which won the Division IV state title in 2007 and has reached the Division V state title game every year since 2009, losing its first three from 2009-11, winning titles in 2013-15 and losing last year’s title game to Canton Central Catholic.

“We knew Kirtland was going to be right on the border and it looks like we’re probably going to be in a region with a lot of the good Wayne County schools and then you have all of those good MAC schools in Division VI now,” Adorni said. “Competitive balance did what I thought it was going to do, which is drop a lot of the schools out west that don’t take as many kids in open enrollment, and take the private schools and either jump a lot of them up or move them down to Division VII.”

One interesting twist of the competitive balance changes, Adorni noted, is that Coldwater and Marion Local, which have dominated Division V and VI for a decade, will now be in the same division and region, meaning at least one of them won’t win a regional championship this coming season.

Mogadore’s jump up one division is due largely to its competitive balance number, a change Adorni noted is tied to three transfers on the roster last season who came to the district as freshmen.

“You look at our large competitive balance number … the majority of kids on last year’s roster, in fact all but three, have been here since kindergarten,” Adorni said. “We’re a small community, landlocked, and we’ve had some families who made decision because open enrollment to build right across the line in places like Martin Road, who wouldn’t have done that if we didn’t have open enrollment. So they were able build a nice home and still send their kids to Mogadore, but they’re kids who have been here since kindergarten.”

Another competitive balance debate that has taken place in recent years is the idea of dividing schools up into public and private school divisions, with the issue voted on twice and failing both times. The vote was closer the second time and Adorni believes that a third vote would be closer still, possibly even in favor of the change. The issue comes up typically after fall sports, when private school teams often win more than half of the state football titles.

For now, the public versus private school debate isn’t at the forefront, but Ross said the competitive balance changes were made with the issue in mind.

“The committee studied the competitive balance factors and we listened to the feedback from our member schools,” Ross said, noting that the first three Competitive Balance Proposals were voted down by the membership in 2011, 2012 and 2013. “As we’ve said all along, our goal is to keep public and non-public schools together in the same postseason divisions, but Competitive Balance will help place those schools in the correct division based on the makeup of their roster. We are very pleased that this is now off the ground and we can see the results. We’ll continue to gather feedback and see what changes, if any, the committee wants to propose to the membership to vote on in the future.”

Other local schools such as Green and Lake (Division II), Coventry and Springfield (Division III) and Manchester (Division V) will remain in their previous divisions for football, although their regional composition will change as various rivals move up or down a division. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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