The Suburbanite
  • Sunday Special: Separate state tournaments not the answer for Ohio, either

  • When high school principals across Ohio get referendum ballots in the mail in May, they are facing a choice that could reshape high school athletics in the Buckeye state. A third attempt to “level the playing field” between public and nonpublic schools will take place in May.

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  • When high school principals across Ohio get referendum ballots in the mail in May, they are facing a choice that could reshape high school athletics in the Buckeye state. A third attempt to “level the playing field” between public and nonpublic schools will take place in May.
    The Ohio High School Athletic Association is not putting forth this measure. A group of superintendents in Wayne County initially started the push to separate state tournaments for public schools and nonpublic schools. There was enough support for this to put it on the referendum ballot this spring.
    This is the most important referendum item for which principals will vote. A simple majority is needed.
    What some may not know, however, is what that would look like. Separating the tournaments — it is done in a few states — means the OHSAA would have to run two tournaments for all sports.
    But let’s use just football for the sake of argument.
    Last year, the OHSAA’s board of control members voted to add a seventh division in football. It might have been a pre-emptive strike for the separation movement.
    Separate tournaments does not mean the OHSAA would run a public school tournament with seven divisions, and then essentially an eighth nonpublic school tournament. How is it fair that private school such as Central Catholic would have to play in the same tournament against St. Ignatius, with triple the enrollment or more?
    If there are separate tournaments, the OHSAA could keep the seven-division format, but it would be vastly different. Five divisions likely would be for public schools, and two for nonpublic schools.
    Under the current system for 2013, a school district the size of Massillon will move from Division I to Division II, and make it more competitive. However, if the tournaments are separated, Massillon would remain in the public school Division I tournament.
    When the OHSAA says there are far-reaching ramifications of a separate tournament, it isn’t kidding. The organization will spend late winter and early spring traveling throughout the state and explaining what the referendum changes could mean for schools.
    Every school district should attend one of those regional meetings.
    Before taking the podium to speak to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club, longtime club officer Dave Seffens introduced Blackledge. Seffens said he polled club members before Monday’s talk and asked them what they wanted to hear Blackledge address.
    “The No. 1 question,” Seffens said, turning toward Blackledge, “what do you think of A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend?”
    ESPN’s Brent Musberger practically drooled over McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb. The network, which Blackledge works for as well, issued an apology the next day.
    Page 2 of 3 - Blackledge didn’t take the bait.
    “I didn’t see her,” he said, smiling.
    Blackledge, like most people, thought Alabama would win the national championship. He did not, however, expect the game to be a lopsided outcome.
    It was after all, Alabama’s strength (offensive line) against Notre Dame’s strength (defensive front).
    “I knew after the first possession that it wasn’t going to be a good, competitive game by the way Alabama ran the ball and controlled the line of scrimmage. Then the play-action passing off that ... A.J. McCarron — I guess he has a pretty girlfriend — completed 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns. He never got touched. He never got knocked down.
    “He has played in back-to-back national championship games and completed 43 of 62 passes for 500 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and his team has won both games by a combined 63-14 score. That’s not a bad two games on that stage for A.J. McCarron.”
    TEAMS FOR 2013
    Blackledge’s teams to watch for next season:
    Alabama, Texas A&M, Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, TCU.
    Many Browns fans were relieved when Oregon head coach Chip Kelly apparently decided to stay a Duck and not bring his read-option, spread offense to the NFL.
    Kelly, though, made a surprise decision and accepted the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching job last week.
    His offense, as Oregon ran it, won’t work in the NFL, according to Blackledge.
    “As it is? No,” Blackledge said. “But Chip Kelly is a smart guy. He’s a single guy and he’s a football junkie. I know for the last few years he goes and spends a couple days with Jon Gruden and they pick each other’s brains. I think he has more than what he shows at Oregon.”
    When the Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland it did little to add to the competitiveness of the conference on the football field. Those two programs aren’t exactly lower half of the SEC, even.
    “My first reaction would be I don’t know how it strengthens the conference from a football standpoint,” Blackledge said. “Where it does strengthen it is from the television standpoint. A lot of people kind of scoffed when the Big Ten Network came out, but they’ve done a nice job with it. Now, they’re going to be in the Washington, D.C., market and the New York (and) New Jersey markets.”
    Minerva is progressing through its search for a new football coach, and athletics director Don Spinell said the school is in the information-gathering phase.
    Page 3 of 3 - However, that will change this week when interviews are expected to happen.
    “Our ultimate goal is to have a person in position for the Feb. 22 board meeting,” Spinell said. “That person will probably be here prior to that.”
    The application process didn’t close until Friday. Spinell said the district didn’t really have to advertise the position after a story in The Repository.
    “You have some of the normal candidates who apply for a lot of jobs, and we also did some targeted searches,” Spinell said. “We made some contacts with people who have not officially applied. There isn’t an official application list.”
    Minerva’s enrollment has been falling off for the last several years and the Lions will be a Division IV team next year. Spinell said the high school is down 63 boys over the last two reporting periods.
    Spinell expects the enrollment report for next school year to be 232 boys.
    With the gas-drilling boom in that area, is it surprising that Minerva hasn’t seen an increase?
    “We haven’t seen a growth at the high school level from that taking place,” Spinell said. “I see oil trucks drive through here on a daily basis. But I don’t know if anybody has seen a major influx of students.
    “Enrollment is down, but it’s starting to pick up a little bit at the younger levels.”
    University of Cincinnati football coach Tommy Tuberville has pulled the scholarship offers of more players who were long-ago verbal commitments to the Bearcats under a previous coaching staff. Tuberville drew the ire of Massillon head coach Jason Hall for his handling of the recruitment, or abrupt end of it, of Kyle Kempt.
    Cincinnati has done the same in two other states.
    It caught the attention of USA Today. The nationally circulated newspaper picked up our piece on Kempt, and Hall’s banning of Cincinnati coaches from Massillon’s campus last week.

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