Commissioner Ross: Two postseasons problematic


Ohio High School Athletic Association commissioner Dan Ross sighed when asked what might ensue if a statewide referendum seeking separate postseason tournaments for public and non-public schools passes in May.

“If this issue does pass, and I think it will be close, we have no clue whatsoever how things would actually shake out,” said Ross, addressing a media panel from around the state yesterday. “We would have to reassess the way we do business in every sport. We would be faced with major logistical issues.”

A group of administrators in northeast Ohio initiated a petition that received enough signatures for it to be placed on the annual referendum. Principals from the state’s 820-member high schools will be eligible to vote during the first two weeks of May. The OHSAA will announce the results on May 15.

If passed, the new format would be implemented during the 2015-16 school year. If defeated, the issue would be shelved until at least 2016. A similar proposal has been voted down three times previously, but the margin has narrowed significantly each time.

Ross vowed to remain objective when he barnstorms Ohio in April to educate administrators about the referendum, but his stance is obvious.

“I will try my best to state the positives and negatives and present all the issues that people might not be aware of,” he said. “As I’ve stated all along, I believe the current system needs to be tweaked, but I’m not one who believes that separation is the answer. That’s why I came up with the competitive-balance proposal, to try to find some middle ground to work from. If the issue is voted down, maybe we’ll revisit it in some form.”

The logistical issues of separate tournaments are numerous, Ross said. For example, how many divisions would a non-public football tournament with 72 schools require?

“What would people think about Norwalk St. Paul vs. Cincinnati St. Xavier in a first-round game, or if there’s a big-school and a small-school division, you still might get Ironton St. Joseph against Youngstown Mooney,” Ross said. “How do you make it work?”

He said that the idea of sponsoring twice as many tournaments might hasten the OHSAA to take a hard look at whether it would be financially viable to continue sponsoring state championships in smaller, nonrevenue sports such as field hockey, gymnastics and ice hockey.

The possibility exists that all or some of the non-public schools, which comprise 17 percent of the membership, might opt to secede from the OHSAA and form an independent governing body.

In other news:

• In the next few months, the OHSAA Board of Directors will examine modifying its penalty for athletes transferring from one school to another. Athletes not qualifying under specific exemptions are forced to sit out one calendar year before becoming eligible.

“This discussion is being driven by a large volume of court cases in which local judges are honoring temporary restraining orders on the grounds that the penalty is too harsh,” Ross said. “We may see a sizable shift from where we’ve been on this stance, perhaps to a penalty of up to 50 percent of that season.”

• The Board of Directors approved a recommendation from the OHSAA to change the divisional tournament assignment process for cross country in order to ensure that a school’s boys and girls teams will compete in the same division. Beginning next fall, enrollment numbers will be added together and divided in half to determine a school’s division.

Roughly 50 schools had teams in different divisions. More than 80 percent of all teams share a common boys and girls coach, creating competitive and travel issues in the tournament. The Ohio Track and Cross Country Coaches Association previously voted down the plan.

“I understand that some coaches are upset, but it was one of those things that we decided was for the good of the sport as a whole,” OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried said.