The fourth time truly was a charm Friday for state administrators and the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
The organization announced its member schools voted 411-323 (56 percent to 44 percent) for a measure that will fundamentally balance the state team tournaments in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer and volleyball starting in the 2016-17 school year.
Almost 90 percent of member schools voted on the issue, where only a simple majority of the 825 Ohio high school principals was needed for passage.
“We’re happy because we needed a starting point,” OHSAA assistant commissioner Beau Rugg said. “Separation (of public and private schools) is not good for the kids, so what can we do to help level the playing field for the kids.”
The latest plan was recommended by the 27-member OHSAA Competitive Balance Committee. It was similar to a proposal member schools rejected 327-308 in 2013. However, this proposal also addressed public schools that benefit by athletes transferring in from beyond their district.
A three-tiered points system will assign a factor to all student-athletes (freshmen through seniors) who play a specific sport in high school. Those factors will be used within a math formula that will determine the athletic count for divisional alignment instead of the raw enrollment data alone.
In addition to the size of a school’s enrollment, the competitive balance plan will have new modifying factors that will be applied to students on each roster on a sport-by-sport basis based on where the student’s parents reside and/or the educational system history of the student.
Although it is unclear exactly how all area schools voted, reaction has come from a few of the athletic directors.
Morgan athletic director Devin Barnhouse voted for the proposal because of a specific rule.
“We voted for it because of the new transfer bylaw,” he said. “Most of our kids are scored as 0s and we have some 1s, but not many 2s by the new numbers.”
Barnhouse also said it was a step in the right direction despite having a minimal affect on his district.
“There was a gray area in the plan and we talked about that, but this is the best plan so far,” he said. “In the future, we are hoping they tweak and scale down some of the numbers, especially for football.”
On the other end, Maysville voted against it. Athletic director Mark Rider said there wasn’t enough in the plan.
“I’m not sure how you solve this problem, but we didn’t feel the proposal was clear enough,” he said. “I don’t like the Catholic schools separating, but I also don’t think it should punish public ones either.”
Like Barnhouse, Rider doesn’t see the school district being affected too much. However, he thinks an idea used during this past football season would help the balance problem in other sports.
“I thought going to seven divisions in football was the right thing because it really opened things up especially for teams in our area,” he said. “I feel like doing that in other sports would be a better way to go.”
OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross said there still is a long way to go with the plan before it is enacted.
“While passing the plan is a major step and truly exciting, our work is just beginning,” he said. “The Competitive Balance Committee will continue to clarify any unanswered questions and our staff will put all the wheels in motion to finalize the electronic roster collection system.”