Principals around the state of Ohio voted against the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance referendum for a second time in as many years.
By almost the same margin as a year ago, high school principals defeated an Ohio High School Athletic Association proposal that was intended to narrow the competitive gap between public and private high schools.
The competitive balance referendum was voted down 339-301 Wednesday. Last year, principals defeated the issue 332-303.
But the competitive balance issue likely isn’t going away. The next referendum vote likely will be on a proposal to hold separate private and public school state championships, a move that could vastly change OHSAA. If holding separate tournaments does pass, it creates a problem for OHSAA because private schools, mostly Catholic schools, could decide to form another athletic association.
A group of superintendents in Wayne County have enough petition signatures to put a member-school referendum to a vote next spring, according to OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross.
“I don’t know where that goes. …,” Ross said. “When you start looking through the logistics, it creates issues. Then there’s the question of whether (private schools) remain, and it’s a good one.
“There would have to be a lot of conversation between nonpublic schools and how they want to operate. That decision has to be there on whether they want to maintain membership. If they do, then we have to look at how you run that and if it’s feasible for us to run it.”
Separating the tournaments isn’t a new idea. While schools defeated the issue by a 3-to-1 margin in 1975, the gap has narrowed. The measure was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin in 1994. A professional research company was used by OHSAA last fall to conduct a survey among Ohio principals, and Ross said the result was 53 percent against, and 43 percent for it with a margin of error of 4 percent.
Ross said if the separate tournament referendum is voted on and defeated, he hoped to find middle ground between two tournaments and the current competitive balance proposal.
The competitive balance proposal that failed this week was similar to last year’s model. The proposal would have taken each school’s enrollment and subtracted from it based on free and reduced lunch students, and added enrollment based on each school’s open enrollment policy, and for tradition or success factors for reaching regional and state tournaments over the previous eight years.
Ross said there are no plans to reconvene the competitive balance committee this summer. The OHSAA’s Board of Directors, he said, needs to digest the latest results and see if there is a referendum for separating the tournaments next spring.
“I think there’s a coalition of people across Ohio that supports (separating the tournaments) strongly,” Ross said. “I truly believe we have a wonderful system. I believe we can make our system better and from the vote, I think 52 percent of schools would like to hang where we are, and 48 percent would like to make a change.”
Page 2 of 2 - Those numbers contrast with OHSAA’s only polling data. More than 70 percent of high school principals told the OHSAA competitive balance was a systemic issue that needed to be addressed.
“This isn’t a small group of people asking why are we doing this,” Ross said. “I believe the separation of tournaments is extreme. I think we can work with schools to make this better. The committee came together to find a middle ground without going to the extreme, but it hasn’t found that middle ground yet.”
Some of the reasons why schools may have turned down competitive balance this time could be that OHSAA changed the way the tradition factor triggered after ballots were sent to principals. Also, just before voting, the board of directors voted 6-3 to expand the playoffs to seven divisions, which does alleviate some competitive balance issues.
Stark County schools defeated the issue. Louisville would have been one of the county schools most impacted. The Leopards will move to Division III under the seven-division format, but would have competed for the playoffs with Massillon and McKinley in Division II if the proposal would have passed.
“That may have made a difference on that,” Ross said of the division expansion. “… We knew we had to deal with it, and we knew we had competitive balance to deal with. The end of the (school) year is getting close. To wait would be another month to six weeks of a delay when we have all the logistics to look at.
“It may have been better to wait with that. We didn’t think about that. Honestly, some schools may have looked at it and said that’s good, we like where we are … but we’ve never been one to play games. We lay things out for people and let them make informed decisions.”