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Schools vote down OHSAA competitive balance bylaw

By RUSTY MILLER

AP Sports Writer

 

COLUMBUS — The schism between public and private schools — at least on a football field or a basketball court — widened a little more on Wednesday.

For the second consecutive year, Ohio high schools voted down a proposal that would have addressed the ongoing competitive-balance problems between public and private teams.

“I do believe that there are many schools in this state who honestly believe they do not have a fair shot (of winning a state championship),” said Commissioner Dan Ross of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

An OHSAA bylaw that would have changed how schools are assigned to tournament divisions in the team sports of football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball was voted down 339-301. The results of the vote were announced on Wednesday afternoon.

A similar proposal failed by a 332-303 vote a year ago.

For years, critics from public schools have pointed at the success of football powerhouses such as Cincinnati Moeller and Cleveland St. Ignatius and said that private schools which can draw students and athletes from a larger area have a decided advantage. The OHSAA, which sanctions prep sports in the state, tried to offset any real or imagined advantages by forming a committee which considered more than just the size of a school’s enrollment when assigning it to a particular division.

The OHSAA had its member schools vote on a proposal which would start with the number of students, but then also take into consideration other measuring sticks for each sport. A boundary factor based on how a school gets students and a tradition factor — based on how many times a school reached the state/regional tournament over an 8-year span — were taken into account. Also noted was a socioeconomics factor based on the number of students receiving free lunches at the school.

But the majority declined to approve the measure.

A total of 825 ballots were mailed, with 645 ballots returned (78.2 percent).

A petition drive is still alive which calls for a complete split between public and private schools in OHSAA tournaments.

Ross said he believed that latest vote would likely add to the petition’s momentum.

“I think there’s a coalition of people across Ohio who support that very strongly,” Ross said.

He added that the OHSAA would continue with the status quo while trying to even the playing field for everyone.

“This is part of the journey,” he said. “Our schools are saying there are some pieces of this that are really good but we’re not really sure. Now I think we may end up with the extreme — the petition to separate I think would be the extreme.”