May 16, 2013
COLUMBUS — The reasons might have changed but the numbers were remarkably similar when an Ohio High School Athletic Association competitive balance proposal was voted down for a third consecutive year.
This year’s vote, released by the OHSAA on Thursday afternoon, had 327 schools cast a ballot against the competitive balance plan and 308 in favor of it.
Last year, a different competitive balance plan was voted down 339-301 a year after the original plan went down 332-303 in 2011.
So, what’s next?
Probably a fourth round of voting on competitive balance and maybe even a vote on both separating into public and private tournaments and competitive balance in 2014.
OHSAA commissioner Dr. Dan Ross said the fact that nearly 50 percent of the state’s schools voted for change shows there is strong sentiment to address a perceived imbalance between public and private schools.
“I think when the vote is 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent, you have 48.5 percent of your members who aren’t really happy with what is going on now,” Ross said. “We’re very, very close. I do know the issue is probably going to be on the table for a while.”
This year’s plan would have established home districts for every school, public and private, and any students from outside that attendance area would have had a multiplier applied to them.
The two earlier competitive balance efforts had three components — a school district boundary factor, a socio-economic factor and a tradition factor.
Ross said the OHSAA’s competitive balance committee will meet again to formulate a plan to present to the organization’s board of directors.
“We were very, very close,” Ross said. “We’re going to do a survey of our member schools and then we’re going to take the information from the survey and bring our competitive balance committee back.
“We’ll let the committee look at those results and make a recommendation to the board of directors in August or September,” he said.
This year’s competitive balance effort was a last-minute substitution for a vote on a plan to separate public and private schools into two tournaments, which a group of Wayne County school administrators had successfully petitioned to get onto the ballot.
The decision to replace that plan with another competitive balance effort was announced March 23 at the boys state basketball tournament.
The sense of relief among OHSAA officials at avoiding a public-private vote was apparent at the press conference announcing the change.
But early optimism about passing the proposal turned into predictions of another close vote.
Some school administrators said they felt they weren’t getting enough details about how the plan would work. Others thought the plan was being rushed. Some private schools, like Lima Central Catholic, didn’t like it because they were being separated from their “feeder” schools.
Maybe the final blow was when the OHSAA published enrollment numbers for 2013-14 that were much too high for many schools.
“It was a situation where some of those school’s (enrollment) numbers were in error. Since that was going to be the basis for where the formula started, it provided some grief for some people,” Ross said.
“The only other thing I heard was that this came late. The fact that we did not have all that much time was a negative for some people. They might have thought it was too much too quick,” he said.
Backers of two tournaments need to find only 75 schools to sign a petition to get their plan on the ballot again, so it appears likely it will be an option again next year.
“The individuals in Wayne County who were involved in this were very gracious in pulling that position. I don’t think they’ve made any bones about it that if it (competitive balance) was not passed there would be an issue coming the next year,” Ross said.
As in the previous two years, nearly 25 percent of the high schools in the state did not vote or missed the deadline for voting.
This year 191 of Ohio’s 836 schools were absent from the voting. Twenty-seven of those ballots arrived at the OHSAA’s office after the May 1-15 voting period and four were disqualified, including some where the school voted both for and against the proposal.
“If there are any schools that don’t vote, it’s too many for me,” Ross said. “There is no mechanism that forces schools to vote. It’s disappointing to me because this is an extremely important issue. But everybody has busy lives and for some of them, this just didn’t make it to the top of the list, unfortunately.”
The other major item on the ballot, a change in the OHSAA’s rule for transfer students, was approved by a 346-288.
Under existing rules, a student would have to sit out a year if he or she transfers after starting high school. The new rule reduces the penalty to half a sports season.
Critics say the new rule will make it theoretically possible for a student to play three sports for three schools in one school year. But Ross sees it differently.
“There was a feeling that a youngster missing a whole year of the three years he would have after his freshman year was irreparable harm,” Ross said.