The test run for competitive balance took its next step April 6 when the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced divisional breakdowns for fall sports.
Approved by member schools in a referendum vote in 2014 after failures the three previous years, competitive balance adds a modifier to the enrollment numbers that annually have determined divisional classifications. Of the 10 OHSAA-sanctioned fall sports, football, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball are affected.
The changes will have the biggest affect in central Ohio at non-public schools such as Hartley and Ready from the CCL and Columbus Academy from the MSL.
Hartley’s football team is moving up to Division III after winning the past two Division IV state championships. Its girls volleyball team, which was the Division II state runner-up last season, now will compete in Division I.
The Hartley football team played seven of its 10 regular-season games last fall against teams in Divisions I, II or III before going on to beat Steubenville 24-21 for the Division IV state title.
“We’ve prepared ourselves for it the past few years and tried to be intentional about who we scheduled,” coach Brad Burchfield said. “The really good teams are going to be really good teams in any division. We’ve played teams like Toledo Central Catholic (which won the Division III state title in 2014) and we’ve faced Coldwater (which won four consecutive Division V state titles from 2012-15). There’s not a lot of difference.”
Hartley now will have the smallest enrollment number, 207, of any football team in Division III, but it has an adjusted enrollment count of 304 based on competitive balance.
The adjustment for non-public schools is based on how long an athlete on the 2016 roster had been enrolled in that program’s designated feeder school. The only athletes not affected are those who have maintained continuous enrollment in the same education system since seventh grade.
For public schools, the adjustment is based on where the student lives and where the student has been enrolled since seventh grade.
Implementation of competitive balance for boys and girls basketball will be announced in June and for baseball and softball in August.
Ready has the fifth-lowest enrollment of football teams that will comprise Division V at 143, but its adjusted enrollment is 193, which places it in the middle of the division.
The adjusted number does not take into account that five players who were in the program last fall have transferred since the end of the season.
“If you have kids that leave your team, those numbers are still held against you,” coach Brian Cross said. “I think that’s totally unfair. If they somehow could take the numbers from this year’s team, I’d be totally OK with that. But for kids that aren’t even in your school, it’s a system that’s not ever going to be perfect, but I don’t understand going by last year’s number.”
There will be six new schools in Division I in football next fall, but enrollment changes, not competitive balance, were responsible for those divisional shifts.
Among area teams, Groveport and Delaware move up from Division II to Division I while Westerville South drops from Division I to II based on base enrollment numbers.
The implementation of competitive balance does nothing to change the discrepancy between the largest and smallest schools in Division I. Cincinnati St. Xavier has a base enrollment of 1,178 and an adjusted enrollment of 1,532, while the smallest school in Division I, Findlay, has an adjusted enrollment of 617.
Other schools that are changing divisions in football because of base enrollment are Africentric (from Division VII to Division VI), Bexley (from Division III to Division IV), Heath (from Division IV to Division V), Johnstown (from Division IV to Division V), Linden-McKinley (from Division III to Division IV), Whetstone (from Division III to Division II) and Whitehall (from Division III to Division II).
In girls volleyball, Hartley now has the smallest base enrollment (291) in Division I but has an adjusted enrollment of 356. Mason has the state’s largest girls enrollment (1,304).
Eastmoor Academy is moving up to Division I because of base enrollment growth, while Big Walnut goes from Division I to Division II and Johnstown drops from Division II to Division III.
Other schools affected by competitive balance in girls volleyball are Heath and Madison Christian.
Heath has a base enrollment of 188 but an adjusted enrollment of 203 to make it one of the smallest in Division II.
Moving up from Division IV is Madison Christian, which has a base enrollment of just 73 but is one of six schools with the lowest adjusted enrollment of 118 in Division III.
“We played a Division I schedule last year with teams like Olentangy Orange, Watterson, Grove City (and) DeSales, and we’ve done pretty well against them,” Hartley volleyball coach Mike Rahe said. “In Division I, there will be four district champs, so there will be more opportunities to (advance to the regional tournament).”
The only school affected directly by competitive balance in soccer is the Columbus Academy boys team, which has a base enrollment of 152 but an adjusted enrollment of 230 and moves up from Division III to Division II.
The Vikings went 7-6-5 and were district semifinalists last season.
“Our school is an academic school and our philosophy is that we try to have as many student-athletes participate as possible,” coach Ron Leach said. “I’m not sure (competitive balance) really takes that into account, but whatever division we’re in, we’re going to do the best job we possibly can.”