The Suburbanite
  • Stark schools likely to reject competitive balance issue

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  • Based on a sampling of area school districts, the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance proposal likely will fail here. Building principals across the state are casting votes on a number of referendum changes to OHSAA bylaws, but the competitive balance proposal is the one that would have sweeping changes to the way schools are classified into divisional assignments.
    Voting ends Tuesday.
    The proposal has been several years in the making and was narrowly defeated statewide last year. The proposal is designed to narrow the gap, real or perceived, between private and public schools on the field of play.
    The OHSAA’s Competitive Balance Committee found between 1999-2010 private schools won 43 percent of the state titles in selective team sports, even though they comprise just 17 percent of the OHSAA’s membership.
    The proposal, if it passes, would add enrollment to schools for a tradition or success factor, and add enrollment to a school based on its open enrollment policy. It subtracts enrollment based on a school’s free and reduced lunch count.
    For example, Massillon traditionally is a Division I football school with an enrollment of 555.
    The proposal would drop Massillon’s enrollment to below 500 based on its free lunch count and the Tigers would compete in Division II. McKinley would drop from Division I to II for the same reason.
    “The interesting thing is we’re dropping to Division II already because of the seven-division expansion,” said Jason Hall, Massillon’s head football coach and athletic director. “That’s before competitive balance. This proposal just drops us more. ... The issue I have, as far as Massillon is concerned, we would like the option to be ours, not based off the state or what competitive balance does.”
    McKinley, Timken and Massillon are among the area schools that are unlikely to vote for the proposal. The Repository sent surveys to all Stark County high schools and 13 responded. Among those 13 schools, nine principals or administrators said they were unlikely to vote for the proposal.
    The four schools that were likely to vote for it were Tuslaw, Alliance, Hoover and GlenOak.
    Hall said Massillon may support the proposal in the future if it gives schools the option to play up a division.
    “Isn’t this a free country?” Hall said. “Who’s to say you can’t opt to do something if you feel it is in your kids’ best interest?
    Manchester, located in Summit County on the border of Stark County, indicated the strongest feelings against the proposal. Principal Jim France, also the school’s football coach, doesn’t like the idea.
    He said there was nothing about the proposal that appealed to his school district. The aspect of the proposal France dislikes most is the tradition factor. Some coaches believe it punishes a school by adding enrollment numbers based on success factors.
    Page 2 of 3 - “Being punished for success doesn’t address the real problem,” France wrote in his survey.
    When asked what aspect would he like to see changed the most, France responded, “every aspect.”
    Schools such as GlenOak and Jackson will not be affected by the proposal. Both are large Division I schools and will remain so.
    However, Jackson is unlikely to vote for it, and GlenOak is likely to vote for it.
    “I think there needs to be more study and I think it needs cleaned up a little bit more,” Jackson High School principal Monica Myers said. The OHSAA recently changed the tradition calculations after the ballots were sent out.
    “Also keep in mind, too, depending on who drops and who comes up, the teams you play may drop a division,” Jackson athletic director Terry Peterson said. “In football, every point matters for the playoff standings. So when you get down to Week 10 and you’re competing for that last spot, if could impact you that way.”
    Louisville is a school that is caught between Division II and III. The Leopards would be a Division III school based on the new seven-division format in football. However, competitive balance makes it a small Division II school and it likely would compete against Massillon, McKinley and others for a spot in the playoffs.
    Louisville indicated it is unlikely to vote for the proposal.
    “The proposal has a negative impact for Louisville,” principal Steve Milano wrote. “The tradition piece and statewide open enrollment that we have keeps us Division II with Massillon, McKinley and Glenville. The three schools mentioned play all Division I schools in the regular season. We wouldn’t have a chance to even make it in the playoffs (in Division II) with our schedule that is set for the next several years.”
    Hoover Superintendent Mike Gallina said Hoover will vote for the proposal because he believes the proposal is a starting point and the various factors will be tweaked in the coming years as more becomes known.
    “We see it as a positive to neutral for us,” Gallina said. “We are a smaller Division I school, but as the future moves along, it may right-size us.”
    Gallina said future projections for Hoover show the district will continue to become smaller. Hoover would not be negatively affected by the tradition or socio-economic factor. However, in the coming years, it could move to Division II if enrollment follows projections.
    The socio-economic factor benefits McKinley, which is one of the reasons it moves down from Division I to II based on OHSAA projections. Jeff Jordan, chief financial officer for the OHSAA, said there has been no discussion on capping the socio-economic factor because that could affect smaller schools more than larger ones.
    Page 3 of 3 - “There’s a lot the committee is open to hearing,” Jordan said. “This is one step in a longer process should this be passed. ... Unfortunately, if you wait until a perfect system is in place from the start, it doesn’t happen. We have to start somewhere and get to a point.”
    Perhaps, though, a starting point is unnecessary. East Canton athletic director Joe Bogdan wouldn’t mind seeing the proposal fail and the focus shift to enforcing the current bylaws.
    “I would like the proposal to go away. There is no popular solution that will keep certain schools, public and private, from developing certain programs that other similar-sized schools feel they cannot compete with,” Bogdan said. “The age of open enrollment brings with it the inevitability that centers of excellence emerge, especially in densely populated parts of the state.
    “The OHSAA needs to concentrate on enforcing the rules it already has to limit transfers and recruiting.”

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