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Balance issue needs solution

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

If there ever was a topic involving Ohio high school sports that needed to be put to rest it's how to assign public and non-public schools to state tournaments.

Should they stay together or participate in separate tournaments?

For those who believe coexisting is the answer, what's the best way to make everyone feel the playing field is level?

We might be close to putting this debate into the past, at least for a while.

For the third time in as many years, the Ohio High School Athletic Association's more than 800 schools are voting on a competitive balance proposal. The voting began May 1 and ends May 15.

If the latest referendum passes by a majority, a new format for how teams are divided for the OHSAA's football, soccer, girls volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball tournaments will begin for the 2015-16 school year.

If it doesn't pass, and there are reasons to believe it won't, the arguments likely will continue.

Until it was axed in March, schools were set to vote in May on a referendum that would have split public and non-public schools after competitive balance proposals failed each of the last two years.

While the previous two proposals featured a sport-by-sport athletic count based on tradition, socioeconomic factors and school boundaries, the latest one centers on school boundaries.

That's the issue people seem to agree with the most, so it has that going for it at least.

Many wonder why a public school like Big Walnut, which draws from one community, should be forced to compete in Division II in most sports with private schools like DeSales and Watterson that have similar enrollment numbers but draw from multiple communities.

The biggest flaw in the competitive balance proposals in 2011 and 2012 had to do with the tradition factor, which would have increased a school's athletic count based on postseason success. That turned off many on both the public and non-public sides.

The new proposal would require schools to submit eligibility certificates of student-athletes in grades nine through 12 by sport.

Each school also would have to indicate how many of those students live outside of its attendance zone, with a multiplier for those athletes of two for football and five for sports with four divisions.

DeSales, which is in the Brookhaven attendance zone but draws most of its athletes from Westerville and other communities, almost certainly would be moved at least one division higher in most team sports.

Because of the socioeconomic aspect involved in the last two competitive balance proposals, there was a benefit for many of the 17 City League schools to vote yes.

The way the new proposal reads, however, there will be a big incentive to vote no for large districts like Columbus City Schools that have open enrollment.

Many CCS athletes live outside of the attendance zone where they are enrolled, which would penalize many of its teams after the enrollment multipliers are calculated.

The best chance for the latest proposal to be approved is schools will fear what might happen if it doesn't pass.

If it does fail, then the somewhat famous "administrators from Wayne County" who helped push the issue a few years ago likely would reconvene to talk about putting together yet another referendum item that would split public and non-public schools.

Then this tiring cycle of whether to split, conceive another competitive balance proposal or just argue about it whenever state tournaments are held would continue.

Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.

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