Commentary

Latest competitive balance proposal most fair to date

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To the best of anyone's knowledge, no athletics directors, coaches or Ohio High School Athletic Association officials have confessed to waking in the night, shuddering from competitive balance-induced nightmares.

No one could be blamed if they had. Few sagas this side of a Stephen King novel have lasted longer than the endless debate that the current state of public-versus-private high school athletics needs fixed.

Proponents of change say private schools win a disproportionate amount of state championships; 17 percent of Ohio high schools are private, and they have won more than 40 percent of state titles the past several years. In the recent boys basketball state tournament, private schools competed for the championship in each of the four divisions, including Watterson in Division II.

Two won titles, including Lakewood St. Edward, which defeated Upper Arlington 62-58 in overtime in the Division I final.

Three OHSAA-backed competitive balance proposals in as many years have gone down to defeat because not enough people can agree how to best assign teams to postseason tournaments. A good deal of people, especially those in the largest school districts, the private-school sector and those districts where there is open enrollment, such as Columbus, think the system is fine.

Not surprisingly, many associated with smaller schools whose teams often are eliminated from the postseason by private schools want it changed.

This proposal seems the fairest. Divisional alignment will be determined by the previous season's roster. Multipliers, officially called "sport factors" for the purposes of the proposal, are unique to each sport. Upward movement is limited to one division.

There are different guidelines for one high-school districts, multiple high-school districts and private schools. Private schools can designate a feeder school anywhere in the area from which they draw for a two-year period.

Anyone who comes from outside a school's designated district will fall under the multiplier.

DeSales, for example, could choose a school in Westerville, where much of its student population lives. Because Westerville has three high schools, anyone who comes from beyond that private school's public attendance zone -- even if they still reside in Westerville City Schools -- would fall under the multiplier.

If the proposal is passed in May, it will be run on a test basis in 2015-16 and fully implemented for 2016-17.

It's a complex concept to be sure, but it's the fairest and best-thought out to date.

Last year's proposal failed 327-308 in a vote by member schools, with a ridiculous 191 schools not bothering to cast a vote -- arguably one of the biggest black marks in the history of Ohio high school sports considering what the proposal would have meant had it passed. Similar proposals failed 339-301 in 2012 and 332-303 in 2011.

Under last year's proposal, private schools could only draw from the public school attendance zone in which the school was located. For DeSales, that would have meant Brookhaven, creating a huge headache considering most of its students live elsewhere.

In some circles, there won't be much of an impact. The largest Division I schools won't be affected, partly because a super division was created for football, and at least some Division II schools that are close enough to bump up likely are playing Division I teams during regular seasons anyway.

Don't think this proposal will be a cure-all if it passes. Not everyone will be satisfied. OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross left the door open for changes down the line, which for a proposal of this magnitude is inevitable and the best move. Among the possible changes are adjustments to multipliers.

As long as there is no more talk of public-private separation, that's livable.

But the whole situation smacks of the old line about good officiating. Fans say they want well-officiated games, but all they really want is for their team to get all the calls.

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