If you can’t beat ’em, eradicate ’em.
That seems to be the mentality coming from northeast Ohio this week, as a petition will result in Ohio principals voting in May on whether to separate public from private schools for good.
The proposed referendum, if passed, would split private and public schools in the postseason for all sports. It’s a pathetic attempt to eliminate private schools and a perceived unfair advantage they have from the rest of the schools in the state.
This has been a hot-button issue in the OHSAA for the past few years, ever since a committee made up of superintendents from Wayne County came up with data showing private schools, which account for only about 20 percent of schools in Ohio, won a “disproportionate” number of state championships.
Much has been made about private schools and allegations of recruiting through the years. Kids want to play for good programs and good coaches, so they flock to schools with good reputations. It’s no different than public schools that have open enrollment (the OHSAA is starting to restrict athletics-inspired transfers, but loopholes still exist). If they have their way, kids will go where the good coaches and programs are, regardless if those are public or private schools.
In each of the past two years, an OHSAA committee put together a competitive balance formula as a compromise to its current enrollment-based division of schools. It failed both times.
There is no perfect system for dividing schools in postseason play, but separating public and private schools dilutres the meaning of all championships and is a direct violation of competitive spirit. Even if the new system ended with a matchup between public and private state champions in all sports, it would be easy to argue either side had an unfair advantage to getting there.
This perceived competitive disadvantage for private schools also has little traction in central Ohio. There are only a handful of perennially successful private schools (Hartley, Ready, DeSales, Newark Catholic to name a few), and none of them is in Division I. Open-enrollment and public-to-public transfers seem much more of a problem in this area.
Small, less prestigious, private schools are at a disadvantage in a straight public/private split. Schools such as Fisher Catholic and Fairfield Christian would not benefit from playing similar-sized public schools. They would either be early-round fodder for the Newark Catholics and Roescranses or would have to face larger private schools in the playoffs.
“I don’t think it helps anybody, really,” Fisher Catholic athletic director Tony Hurps said. “I don’t see the positives. If you get a good coach, he or she is going to be able to turn it around. It really is possible for any school to win in any sport.”
None of the area athletic directors I talked to seemed to be in favor of the split. It seems like a desperate plea by northeast Ohio schools out of jealousy in not being able to compete with the large private schools in that area. What kind of lesson is that to teach teenagers?