After back-to-back years of failing to pass a proposal that would have addressed Ohio’s competitive balance issue, the Ohio High School Athletic Association is facing a new proposal that could make things much worse.
At its meeting this month, the OHSAA acknowledged it received a petition from schools to call a vote in the spring that could cause the state to split its postseason tournaments. The group wants private schools expelled from the OHSAA tournaments and put in their own tournaments.
The issue has arisen in Ohio, and nationally, because of the success private schools have in high school athletics. In Ohio, non-public schools won 43 percent of the state’s championships between 1999 and 2010 even though they make up only 17 percent of the OHSAA members.
It’s understandable that some people want to see something done to address the disproportionate number of championships that private schools are winning.
Previously the OHSAA member schools voted down proposals that would have changed the way the state determines enrollment figures for schools, which are used to split them into divisions for postseason competition. The recent proposals would have had schools’ enrollment affected based on a number of factors including school boundaries, past tournament success and socioeconomics.
The votes have been close the past couple years but kept the status quo.
The OHSAA has had votes in 1978 and 1994 that would have split private and public school tournaments, but they have failed. Hopefully this year’s vote fails, too.
Some people think that private schools have an advantage because they can bring in student-athletes from a large area and are not limited by school boundaries. There also are people who accuse the private schools of recruiting, which gives them advantages to win state championships.
If the public and private school tournaments were split, it would give more opportunities for public schools to win state championships. But the negative consequences could greatly outweigh the few extra opportunities for public schools.
Some private schools already have said if the OHSAA does pass the measure to split the public and private schools, they would leave the association and form their own group.
If that were to happen, the private schools almost certainly would allow recruiting and possibly even athletic scholarships. The schools that currently complain about recruiting would see how bad it actually could get when the private schools face no restrictions.
Darke County doesn’t have private schools that would compete for its athletes, although it’s possible some of the private schools in Miami, Shelby and Montgomery counties could try and get some of the area’s athletes. More likely, other schools in the Cross County Conference, Greater Western Ohio Conference and Midwest Athletic Conference would be affected.
I am afraid, however, of the can of worms this vote could open.
Some members of the OHSAA are going after the private schools because of the number of championships they win. What’s to stop them there?
Versailles has won multiple state championships in football, cross country and track and field. Greenville has been to state in softball three times in the past six years. Tri-Village has been in the girls basketball elite eight the past three years.
Are those programs too successful? Will they be attacked by other OHSAA members in the future for winning too much?
If the public-private split is approved, it could lead private schools to recruit and hurt public schools way more than they currently do. The OHSAA would have little to no recourse to stop them.
It also could lead to future divisions within the OHSAA. If a group of schools is complaining about how many championships private schools win, it won’t take them long to become dissatisfied with other public schools that have had success and turn against them.
There has to be a better solution than splitting the OHSAA. For the few positives it could have, there are much worse possibilities that could arise.
Kyle Shaner is the sports editor for the Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.