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OHSAA commissioner addresses competitive balance

The Competitive Balance Proposal is a go. School administrators throughout Ohio saw to that this month, voting 411 to 323 to pass the Ohio High School Athletic Association plan after three previous times of voting it down.

The plan goes into effect in the 2016-17 school year. It will determine which divisions teams will be placed in the postseason.

That will be decided by a combination of three elements: Initial/adjusted enrollment count (based on EMIS numbers that are provided by the Ohio Department of Education every two years), an initial/adjusted roster count and a sport specific factor.

Affected sports are football, soccer and volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball and softball seasons in the spring.

Here’s what OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross had to say about that and more:

Q: There were 737 ballots returned, which was 100 more than last year. Was there concern about school principals who previously chose to ignore voting on this issue?

A: All of us have been disturbed over the last couple of years at the number of schools that didn’t vote. One of the things that we’re extremely pleased about is we’re right on the 90 percent (voting) mark. We were between 78-80 (percent). We’re moving in the right direction.

Q: What happened in the 2012 vote?

A: We modified the proposal a little bit, but in the modification of that, most of our schools felt like we knocked the teeth out of it that were in the 2011 version. There weren’t going to be a lot of schools that would move (change divisions), so that one was defeated.

Q: What happened in the 2013 vote?

A: We realized we were in a hurry. We had the group remove the petition to split the tournaments at the boys basketball tournaments. There was a short time period from the time to vote to the time they pulled off that proposal. It started the process of using rosters. We made a couple mistakes with that. One was the geographic placement of non-public schools. We didn’t realize we had some schools that we placed in public districts were not where their kids came from.

Q: What did you do differently this time?

A: We tried to do our homework. We surveyed the schools, brought back the committee very soon after the issue failed last spring. If 10 schools had voted the other way last spring we would have won. We realized we were really, really close.

We do our EMIS numbers every two years. The EMIS numbers from last year coming from (the Ohio Department of Education) had a lot of issues with them. In our surveys we learned that 51 of our schools voted against the proposal because of the EMIS numbers and 17 more voted against it because of the tradition factor that wasn’t even in there. We then realized the education piece of this and taking some of the pieces that we had listening to our principals that we believed we could put together a proposal that could be very sound and our schools would support. We listened to them. We crafted a plan that they believed would help the competitive balance issue in our state and we see the results of that today.

Q: It’s a go; what’s next?

A: This is a journey; this is a starting point. We’ll be bringing the Competitive Balance subcommittee back together to address questions that will come up. … The whole committee will come back together in August to try and put this thing together for who’s going to be doing what over the next couple of years for the implementation.

Q: What about the widespread enrollment differential in Division I as compared to other divisions?

A: One of the issues that came up with this was it didn’t deal with the issue of Division I. It wasn’t designed to deal with Division I.

Q: You’re in the education business. Did that help?

A: We had to educate people. There were 17 schools that voted against it last year because of the tradition factor. They were voting on things they weren’t educated about. If you went to any of the Town Hall meetings, we used a worksheet they could use to walk through the process for every kind of school that this would affect. We did a much better job of educating them.

Q: How do you view this victory?

A: This is a start. It’s probably a very good start. Anytime that you put anything in place, there’s always going to be things that are going to come up that you didn’t think about or a nuance here or a situation there. We’re going to keep the committee together and when we run across those things we’re going to have the committee deal with those. Any change in the formula goes back to our schools for a vote.

Q: How do you implement this?

A: We have a group of people who we call compliance monitors. They are retired ADs, principals and a superintendent we brought in. We started conversations with them about some of the issues that they could walk into a school like a mandatory preseason meeting or a coaches’ certification. These people would be going in to help schools and ADs. This isn’t a ‘gotcha.’ It’s more of a let’s make sure we (help schools) stay out of trouble.

One of the things that also would be on their plate would be to sit down with the AD and help them, especially this first time around to make sure when they have their rosters it was done in an appropriate way. Those people would be assigned to schools in a specific region. Hopefully, if we can use 2015-16 as a pilot year that many of the schools who are struggling to do that, we can go in and help them.

Q: What happens when schools are found to not be honest with their rosters?

A: If somebody makes an honest mistake we would probably have one penalty, a fine. If somebody is playing games with their roster and they’re falsifying the numbers, they’re probably going to be removed from the tournament in that sport.

Q: Does this put an end to the idea of separating public and private state tournaments?

A: I’d love to say that I know for absolutely sure it would do that. I don’t know. From the group that was pushing the petition to split, if this passed, they would not be pushing the split from that area of the state. That doesn’t mean somebody else couldn’t do it.

I’m relieved that we don’t have that. We’re not supporters of a separate tournament. We don’t believe it’s good for the kids of Ohio. The fact we can now work on a plan … how can we make this better … it’s incumbent on us that we listen and try to implement the things we know what we do better. If we do that, maybe we don’t have that push to separate.

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