Schools to vote on another competitive balance proposal

Ohio High School Athletic Association Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross has never waffled about separation of public and private schools: He’s not in favor.

But does what’s in place need to be addressed? Oh, yeah.

“We have some of the best tournaments in the country,” Ross told about 250 Southwest District principals, athletic directors and other school administrators during Tuesday’s statewide series of athletic discussion meetings that made a stop at Wright State University.

“Hanging in there together helps to keep those strong. Is it perfect? No. Do we need to tweak how we do our business? I believe we do.”

Member school principals will be mailed ballots on April 29 for the annual spring period to vote on proposed referendum items to the OHSAA constitution. Much of what will be determined by a majority vote is rewritten bylaw language that either has become outdated or needs updating.

The last two years saw landmark competitive balance proposals rejected by relatively close 52-48 percent margins. Now the hot item is classification and organization of schools.

That new proposal was accepted – for vote – when an original proposal to separate postseason tournaments between public and private schools was dropped in March.

School principals have until May 15 to return ballots. They were encouraged to huddle with athletic directors and even superintendents to make certain all are in agreement — at least philosophically — about the best interests of all Ohio schools, not just theirs.

Recruiting penalties, transfers and eligibility all are annual subjects that are addressed. But they will take a backseat to how teams will be classified by division for selected team sports.

According to the proposed legislation, each school will be given an “EMIS Count,” student registration data that’s provided by the State Department of Education’s Education Management Information System. That data is compiled every two years in October for grades 9-11 only. There are separate data for boys and girls for each school.

That number will be added to an out-of-district roster number. Any student who doesn’t reside in the district in which they are attending school will count as out of district. A sliding scale of two to five will be the multiplier for the various sports.

For example, if 20 basketball players live within the school district, they would not be subject to an adjusted enrollment count. However, another 10 players might be two foreign exchange, two tuition, four open enrollment and two more students whose parents are teachers and whose contracts stipulate that children may attend school there.

Depending on the value assigned, those 10 students would add 20-50 points to the EMIS Count.

For an example, Ross used the Division II state champion Columbus Brookhaven football team of 2004. City rival Columbus South had 96 football players in its registration zone that year, but only 41 on its team. Another 55 potential South members played elsewhere, many at Brookhaven.

Had this proposed legislation been in place then, Brookhaven likely would have been bumped up to Division I.

The other main proposal deals with transfers. All students can declare where they want to attend school entering their freshman years. Students who transfer and don’t meet exception criteria are ineligible for sports at their new school for one year.

If a new bylaw is passed, students would sit out only 50 percent of the next season of a sport that they previously participated in. Sports that transfers have not previously played are not subject to that penalty.

“We’ve not had the courts tell us that this is what you have to do,” Ross said, “but we’ve had three different courts tell us that if we don’t do this, somewhere down the line they’re going to or the legislature is going to.”

Any other year that potential transfer ruling would be a big deal. Now, the big deal is if classification and organization is voted down.

“If this does not pass,” warned Ross, “we will have a separation referendum next year.”

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