The OHSAA sought to bring balance to high school sports. Unlike George Lucas, it only needed three sequels to do so.
At least, that’s the plan.
Starting in 2016-17, the OHSAA will initiate a competitive balance referendum in an attempt to level the playing field between public and private schools. The referendum passed by a vote of 411-323 after being shot down the past three years.
“I’ve been around for all of the proposals that they’ve had, basically this is the best of them,” Vermilion athletic director Phil Brickner said. “There is no perfect answer to this.”
The referendum will modify a school’s total enrollment for division placement based on the number of kids the team has on its roster from outside the school district, or in the case of private schools the number of kids that did not continuously attend that institution’s feeder school.
The change affects football, baseball, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, softball and volleyball. Schools in those sports will be assigned to a postseason tournament division based on the adjusted enrollment determined by the competitive balance formula.
“I wanted to see it pass because I don’t want public schools and private schools to break apart and have two different state championships in Ohio,” Keystone athletic director Don Griswold said. “If the only reason you’re playing high school sports is to win a state championship, that’s a little short-sighted in my opinion. Competitive balance is secondary to all the lessons kids can learn through athletics.”
The formula is designed to punish private and public schools with kids on their rosters from outside of their districts, or attendance zones in the case of districts with multiple high schools. Kids who do not reside in the district will receive a “factor” based on certain criteria, which vary depending on whether the institution is public or private.
Basically, seventh grade is the magic year.
For public schools, kids who reside in the district or attendance zone receive no factor. Kids whose parents reside outside but have been continuously enrolled in the district since the beginning of seventh grade are tagged with a Level 1 factor, adding an additional tally to the school’s enrollment.
The highest factor a kid can receive is Level 2, which is assigned to kids that live outside boundaries and were not continuously enrolled in the system since seventh grade.
Level 2 factors vary by sport — plus two for football; plus five for baseball, boys and girls basketball, softball and volleyball; and plus six for boys and girls soccer.
“I think it’s going to be good,” Columbia athletic director Jeff Jump said. “I think it’s the step in the right direction to even out the playing field for the different types of schools.”
Private schools are held to slightly different standards, mainly based on how long the student was enrolled in the institution’s feeder school. Kids are assigned no factors if they attended the same school system and its designated/assigned feeder school continuously since the beginning of seventh grade.
A Level 1 factor is assigned to students who continuously attended the same system of education since the beginning of seventh grade, but did not attend one of the designated/assigned feeder schools.
Students who did not attend the same system of education continuously since the beginning of seventh grade receive a Level 2 factor.
“No matter what we do there are always going to be good teams you have to play in the playoffs,” Avon athletic director Erich Frombach said. “I don’t know that it’s totally going to solve all the inequities of high school sports.”
A possible drawback to competitive balance is the role it could play when teams are finalizing their rosters. In the instance where two kids are fighting for one roster spot, the kid that brings the harsher enrollment penalty could be easier to cut. Jump, however, did not think that would factor into the process, saying the best kids would ultimately make the team regardless of where they lived.
“That will never be an issue at Avon,” Frombach said. “I would be really disappointed if the competition became so cutthroat that that would be a decision to be made, because that’s really not what high school athletics are about.”
Frombach said he doesn’t believe competitive balance will solve the discrepancy issues in Division I. Avon boys basketball plays in Division I with an enrolment of 443 boys compared to schools like St. Ignatius and St. Xavier each with over 1,000.
“You’re never going to make everybody happy,” Frombach said. “What I do respect is that there has been a lot of discussion and a lot of time put in to make it better.”
Using the current divisional cutoffs and 2013-14 enrollment figures, most of the area teams are not in danger of moving up a division. Elyria and Lorain are Division I in all sports, with Amherst, Avon, Avon Lake, Midview, North Olmsted, North Ridgeville, Olmsted Falls and Westlake in no real danger of being bumped up to Division I football.
Most of the schools that compete in the Patriot Athletic Conference are not going to feel much change either.
There are, however, three possible teams that could get bumped up: Vermilion football, Wellington boys soccer and Keystone football.
Vermilion’s boys enrolment sits at 277, four behind the cutoff for Division III football. Any combination of two Level 2 or four Level 1 factors would bump the Sailors. Brickner said while the school is adapting statewide open enrollment next year, it’s too early to tell whether the team will move up a division in 2016-17.
The Dukes are just five boys shy of being a Division II soccer school. If one kid gets assigned a Level 2 factor, they’ll be bumped up. Otherwise, Wellington would have to have five kids receive Level 1 factors.
Keystone football is a longer shot, but it is just 11 kids behind the cutoff for Division III. However, Griswold said he does not expect the referendum to have an impact on the school.
The school that could be affected the most is Elyria Catholic. While all but one of its affected sports — boys soccer — is more than 20 kids away from being bumped up to a higher division, as a private school it could receive a number of factors. Football, however, is 31 kids away and would need a combination of either 16 Level 2 factors or 31 Level 1s.
Fellow private schools Lake Ridge and Open Door could earn multiple factors, but their respective enrollments are far enough away from the cutoffs they won’t likely change divisions.
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.