It's not hard to imagine the confrontational feelings that were created when the OHSAA released a statement Jan. 13 announcing that it was tackling the seemingly age-old debate regarding competitive balance among the state's public and private schools.

It's not hard to imagine the confrontational feelings that were created when the OHSAA released a statement Jan. 13 announcing that it was tackling the seemingly age-old debate regarding competitive balance among the state's public and private schools.

The proposed referendum, to be voted on by OHSAA member schools in May, initially would reset divisional alignments in football, baseball, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, girls volleyball and softball based on a school's sport-by-sport "athletic count." That figure would be calculated using mathematical factors that take into account economics, school enrollment policies and tradition.

On one side of the debate are public schools that won only eight of the 27 state team titles - one of six in football - that the OHSAA awarded during the 2010 fall season.

Many in the private-school camp, meanwhile, are left to wonder whether rules changes, which seemingly would bump them into larger divisions, are fair.

There are many reasons for the disproportionate number of titles won by private schools, but the primary one is that some of those schools can assemble virtual all-star teams from five- and six-county areas.

With that in mind, it does seem reasonable for the OHSAA to visit the issue of boundaries when determining the divisions for private schools, and some large public schools.

The biggest problem I have is with the "tradition factor" that would increase a school's "athletic count."

The OHSAA says this aspect would be determined by "state championship game appearances, state tournament appearances and regional finals appearances."

The implication of this sounds more like a step toward eventually giving participation medals to everyone as opposed to rewarding the best of the best.

Few people want to see Delphos St. John's beat Shadyside 77-6 for the Division VI state football title, and having Youngstown Ursuline win three consecutive Division V state championships is less than ideal when talking about keeping the field balanced.

The problem is that if the OHSAA moves St. John's up to Division V and Ursuline to Division IV, the same problems will persist, but with different teams.

If Hartley would have been in Division III instead of Division IV last fall, it would have been a strong candidate to win that title instead because Watterson, according to the proposed plan, likely would have been in Division II instead of Division III.

Schools that could end up getting hurt unintentionally by a change are the Division I public schools.

A perennial central Ohio football power such as Hilliard Davidson not only has to overcome fellow area public-school powers such as Pickerington Central and Dublin Coffman, but a team such as Cincinnati St. Xavier, which has 1,171 boys, could be looming later in the playoffs.

The new formula potentially also would move state powers such as Mentor Lake Catholic and Toledo Central Catholic into Division I, making a tough field even tougher.

Some have suggested separating into private-school and public-school tournaments, but that only would hurt the spirit of competition that should exist when determining the state's best.

Is there an obvious solution to the issue?

Not exactly, but it doesn't seem like radical change is necessary.

Tradition should be kept out of the equation. Teams like DeSales and Watterson have earned their success by creating programs that teach winning football. This shouldn't be penalized, but emulated by other programs.

Keeping in mind the boundary issues, the OHSAA should choose to tweak, rather than revamp, the way it determines its tournament divisions.

Let the rest of the arguments be settled on the field.