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The state is less than a month away from another vote on competitive balance proposal.

Ohio high school principals will begin voting on the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s most recent proposal May 1, and administrators, coaches and media have had an opportunity to take a closer look. Opinions are changing.

A month ago, everyone was preparing for a vote on whether to split the public and private school tournaments. Instead, with help from the competitive balance committee and the group who submitted the public and private petition, the OHSAA pulled a switcheroo.

I wrote in the March 31 edition of The Advocate that I was in favor of the proposal. After a chance to participate in a forum with OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross, I am beginning to waver. A sticking point is the setting of boundaries for private schools and the multiplier to the school’s enrollment figures.

At the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association annual meeting, Ross was peppered with questions related to a statement in the original press release.

“The student is enrolled in a non-public high school and the parents’ residence is situated outside the geographical boundaries of the public school district or attendance zone in which the non-public high school is situated.”

Ross wants to level the playing field. The question is what does that mean?

Under the proposed plan, Newark Catholic essentially will be penalized for any student-athlete in a team sport that lives outside of the Newark City school district.

A student in Granville could attend St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church and a NC feeder school since kindergarten, but according to the OHSAA’s proposal, that athlete is outside of the school’s natural boundary. If a student lives south of Harris Avenue in Heath — less than two miles from NC — that student is considered an outsider by the OHSAA.

Schools such as NC will survive and thrive. Many of the NC students do live in Newark. This, however, could be debilitating to some private schools’ chances to compete for district and regional titles.

Why is there a debate about the definition of a level playing field? I am not naive enough to think students do not attend private schools to simply play sports. Many students, however, attend private schools for a religious purpose, and religious institutions are not necessarily set up along such boundaries.

A decision by parents to send a kid to Shekinah Christian is not driven by whether they live in the Jonathan Alder school district. It cannot be treated as an apples-to-apples comparison.

Many public school supporters will cheer and support this proposal. Many private school supporters will wonder if this is really a compromise with the supporters of a split.

If I was a principal, my vote would not have changed from a month ago. My stance remains that a public and private split is an Armageddon. If this keeps the state away from a split, I am all for it. Is this a perfect proposal, however? Far from it.

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