In his heart of hearts, Wooster Triway Superintendent Dave Rice believed his proposal to split high school sports tournaments wasn’t going to pass.
And if local high school principals are any bellwether, he was right.
Rice withdrew his petition Friday. Instead, Ohio High School Athletic Association prinicipals will vote on a formula that takes into account high school team members from areas outside a school’s boundaries when determining divisions.
But local principals surveyed before the petition was withdrawn believed a proposed public-private tournament split was a solution in search of a problem. Of the principals of 14 area schools in Ottawa, Sandusky and northern Seneca counties, 12 responded to a News-Messenger inquiry saying they would vote on the issue. Of them, three were undecided, two more were undecided but leaning toward no, six said no and one declined comment.
“The general consensus is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense, particularly to the schools in this area,” said St. Joseph Central Catholic principal Tim Cullen.
Cullen said that there is an assumption — accurate or not — that bigger cities are more conducive to schools fighting over athletes.
“Some of the smaller parochial schools do well because they have a good program,” he said. “Where does Delphos St. John get their kids from?”
Gibsonburg principal Danny Kissell also believed it was an issue for big schools or city schools.
“I continue to be frustrated with rules that are created and are forced on all schools regardless of the consequences for rural and small school districts,” he said.
Old Fort Principal Shane Jacoby said that the split wouldn’t solve the fundamental inequality that exists among public school districts.
“As soon as open enrollment happened, I think things became unequal,” he said.
The formula put on the ballot in place of the split would monitor public and non-public school sports rosters and determine how many athletes were from outside the school’s boundaries — or in the case of non-public schools, the boundaries of the public school district in which it is located.
“Doing nothing is no longer an option,” said OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross. “The system needs to be tweaked. We haven’t hit the tipping point yet, but we need to find where that is.”
Twice, the OHSAA went to member principals with a formula to add to enrollment to determine divisional alignment, and twice the measure failed, in 2011 and 2012. The devil was in the details, as administrators told OHSAA officials that they saw there was a problem, but weren’t sure the formula was the best way to address it.
Ross principal Jose Hernandez advocated the formula, and continues to believe that it wouldn’t be a perfect solution, but it would go a long way toward addressing concerns of non-public school recruiting and public schools with open enrollment.
Another concern administrators had with the formula was the amount of unanswered questions of the implementation of the it — and principals had similar questions about a proposed tournament split.
“If the private schools are split, who will regulate their activity,” asked Woodmore principal Jim Kieper. “Will they stay part of the OHSAA? I think this is a good discussion to have, I just not sure that I have enough answers to feel comfortable if the split would happen.”
The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association hasn’t been asked officially for its input into the proposal, said association President Mike Fell, but coaches seem to think the tournament system in its current state didn’t require splitting tournaments. And neither did the OHSAA.
“We believe we have some of the best tournaments in the country,” Ross said. “We believe that having everyone play together – even though the system may not be perfect – certainly offers everyone in the state of Ohio to participate and compete.”