Superintendents from Wayne County get measure on spring ballot to separate public and nonpublic state tournaments in an effort to level the playing field.
High school principals across Ohio will have the opportunity to alter the landscape of high school athletics this spring. They will vote on a change to Ohio High School Athletic Association bylaws that would force the organization to hold separate tournaments for public and nonpublic schools.
The OHSAA had formed a committee to look at competitive balance and a way to level the playing field for public and nonpublic schools, but previous votes could not reach a consensus on various proposals.
But a group of superintendents in Wayne County came up with an initial plan to separate the tournaments and collected enough signatures to petition the OHSAA to send the issue to a vote. The bylaw proposal reads:
“Member school teams and individuals may compete in OHSAA-sponsored tournaments only in the tournament to which they have been assigned. Notwithstanding this provision, all nonpublic school teams and individuals shall be assigned to a tournament separate and apart from tournaments in which member public school teams and individuals compete.”
“We are not against nonpublic schools and their programs,” said Triway Local Schools Superintendent David Rice, one of the administrators spearheading the new ballot proposal. “We don’t think it’s fair to have to compete in the state championship games with them.”
The OHSAA is making member schools aware this referendum issue was a result of a petition, and the OHSAA does not support it.
“If this passes, the ripple effect could take years to work itself out,” OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried said. “As an OHSAA staff, we do not believe separation is the answer, but we do acknowledge there are issues that still need to be worked through and resolved. The competitive balance proposals that were voted down in 2011 and ’12 was the OHSAA’s initial proposal to help level the playing field when it comes to tournaments.”
One of the issues is where public and nonpublic school draw students. Public schools can get students only from within their district boundaries, unless the district accepts open-enrollment students. Nonpublic districts can attract students, in some cases, from counties away.
Rice was on the OHSAA’s competitive balance committee that came up with a proposal last year that adjusted a school’s enrollment number based on many factors, including whether it accepts open-enrollment students, a free- and reduced-lunch student count and a success/tradition factor. However, some administrators thought it was a mathematically involved process to determine enrollment numbers.
That measure failed by a 339-301 vote. A similar measure before went down 332-303.
“It was well intentioned, but too convoluted,” Rice said. “I was on that committee and expressed a concern about the proposal. But as part of the committee, I was a team player, and that meant there was compromise.”
Page 2 of 2 - Rice said he believes Triway cast a vote against that measure.
This isn’t the first time Ohio has voted to separate tournaments. The proposal went down by a 3-to-1 margin in 1975. However, nearly 20 years later, in 1994, the gap narrowed to 2-to-1.
The OHSAA paid a research company to poll districts two years ago, and that study showed 53 percent against separating tournaments and 43 for the measure with a margin of error of 4 percent.
“We did a study over a 10-year period a few years back and found that 18 percent of the schools in the state are nonpublic, and nonpublic schools won about 50 percent of the championships,” Rice said.
“We studied this three years ago to see if superintendents statewide felt the same way we do in Wayne County, and there was overwhelming support that something needs to be done. We didn’t start this path to separate tournaments. The reason we’re here is after the last spring’s failure, (the OHSAA) basically said they were done dealing with this thing.”
Stried said the OHSAA did that to allow the Wayne County superintendents to move forward and bring the separation vote to member schools.
“We would still study this and try to level the playing field without separation,” Stried said.
Referendum ballots will go to high school principals by May 1. Votes will be counted May 16. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.