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OHSAA may not really be leveling playing field

Leveling the playing field sounds more like a plan to level any school that has built a program with a strong winning tradition.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association is trying to sell schools on a proposal that is supposed to level the playing field between public and private schools.

There has always been a concern regarding the dominance of private schools winning state championships. A study showed that between 1999 and 2010 about 43 percent of the state champions – 146 of 340 titles — have been from private schools despite the fact private schools account for only 17 percent of the total membership among Ohio’s high schools.

There have been other measures in the past to try and “level the playing field,” but those measures were usually voted down.

The new formula wants to take into account the school boundary factor or how students are obtained, the socioeconomic factor and the tradition factor.

Non-public schools with no boundaries would have their enrollment increased in the eyes of the OHSAA by 10 percent times enrollment, non-public schools with boundaries would be increased eight percent, public schools with open enrollment adds six percent, public schools with adjacent district enrollment adds four percent and public schools with no open enrollment is, naturally, no percentage added.

Many larger cities such as Cincinnati have no boundaries. Cincinnati Taft — a public school — won the Division III state title in basketball this past season and had several starters transfer to the school in each of the past two seasons.

It is no secret that Cleveland St. Ignatius has dominated the Division I football playoffs and players come from all over the area. But on the other end of the spectrum, Cleveland Glenville is a public school academy and gets students from all over the city. Glenville has become the biggest challenger to St. Ignatius.

Players don’t just transfer to private schools. They go to the public schools as well and there is no tuition unless there is no open enrollment or they are not from an adjoining district. That is the reason for the percentage times enrollment.

The socioeconomic factor takes in account the number of students who qualify for free lunches or the district’s financial situation. Students will less money often don’t participate in athletic programs.

Schools falling into this category would times 10 percent and subtract from their enrollment.

This would have a negative effect on a school such as Wheelersburg with little low-income student population or lunch assistance. The district also benefits from a large number of transfer students due to open enrollment.

The tradition factor basically penalizes schools for having a good program. Although there may be no active recruitment of athletes, the fact the program is successful makes it attractive to students who want to be part of a winning, successful program.

This factor is ridiculous.

For example, Ironton made the regional finals last season in football, so the state would add six percent to its enrollment. If Ironton makes it to the state tournament, it must add eight percent and an appearance in the state finals adds 10 percent.

There will be programs that struggle all the time. There will be programs that are successful most of the time. Penalizing a school for doing things right goes against all the principles of our society.

Let’s try something like this. Private schools should be assessed an enrollment based on the public school district the private school resides since the school has the ability to draw from that size of an area.

For instance, Columbus DeSales is in Westerville where there are three Division I public schools. DeSales can draw from that entire area, so it should be Division I. The Stallions basically play a Division I-II schedule because of the quality number of athletes and low enrollment numbers.

There might have to be some kind of exemption for a school like Ironton St. Joseph or Portsmouth Notre Dame. Those schools could never compete against Division IV playoff teams or Division III in sports such as basketball and baseball.

Or, let’s leave the system as it is. It may not be totally fair, but nothing in life is and we always say that sports are a microcosm of life.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.