Blasting Post: Competitive balance issue passes, but will it pass muster?

by MICHAEL LEONARD | SPORTS EDITOR Published:

Like the monster in a horror movie, the issue of "competitive balance" in Ohio high school sports has refused to die for years.

It took four years of trying and some complicated formulas to do it, but the Ohio High School Athletic Association finally got a competitive balance measure passed in May.

OHSAA member high school principals voted 411-323 to approve the "adjusted enrollment counts" system. This vote passed by a much wider margin than the previous three referendums failed.

What's my take on the passage? I honestly believed there wasn't much wrong with Ohio's current system, which sets its divisions based on the total number of boys and girls attending a high school in grades 9 to 11.

However, if the choice was this hybrid system or the other option -- full separation of public and private schools -- call me a fan of adjustment enrollment counts.

The system is complicated, but here's the basic breakdown:

• It starts with the current enrollment figures from each school to create an "initial enrollment count."

• Before each football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball season, schools will submit an initial roster count for all participants in each sport in grades nine through 12. These counts will be due between week one and week three of the regular season.

• Every participant will then be assigned a designation: Level 0, Level 1 or Level Sport Specific Factor.

• Level 0 students' parents will have lived in the same school district since seventh grade. For private schools, the students will have attended designated feeder schools since seventh grade.

• LEVEL 1 students attended the same school district since seventh grade, but either do not live in the school district or did not attend the private schools' feeder school continuously since seventh grade.

• Level 2 students are those who have not attended the same school continuously since seventh grade. This factor will basically cover all transfers, move-ins and students who attended a public middle school before enrolling at a private school.

• Level 2 students will be assigned a multiplier: Two for football, five for volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball and six for soccer. These numbers will be added to generate an "additional roster count."

• Adding the initial enrollment count to the additional roster count will generate a school-adjusted enrollment count in each team sport. The adjusted count will determine the division in each sport.

Sound like a lot of accounting? It is, but there is a method to this madness.

The net effect of the system will be to bump private schools which draw students from a wide area into higher divisions. Walsh Jesuit is a local example.

However, this system also will force high-ranking public school programs to bump up if they draw students from other districts (or get private school students to transfer in).

I feel this system is an equitable way to handle athletic success rather than just automatically bumping up private schools' numbers.

What do I see as the biggest flaw in the athletic count system? The fact that it doesn't apply to more than half of OHSAA's sponsored sports.

The current divisional enrollment system will remain in place for cross country, golf, tennis, wrestling, bowling, swimming and track and field.

FIELD HOCKEY, ice hockey and gymnastics still have only one division in Ohio.

Is there less of competitive balance in swimming (St. Xavier with 32 state titles, Hawken girls with 24) or wrestling (St. Edward with 28 state titles) than the other sports?

It's a bit irksome that any imbalances in these sports aren't being addressed, but the ones in the "revenue sports" are.

One other effect is that we won't know which teams will play in which playoff division until midway through the season. This could wreak havoc with the computer points system used for football playoffs, but we'll see.

It's going to take time to get all of this in place. Thankfully, the new enrollment system won't become the standard until fall 2016.

And even when it goes live, how much will this system really change Ohio high school sports? I predict not much.

St. Ignatius, Walsh Jesuit and the Cincinnati-area Catholic schools are still going to draw in students from a wide area.

School districts in places like Hudson, Westlake and Upper Arlington will continue to have a socioeconomic advantage over inner-city schools.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: There will never be a competitive balance in high school sports. That's because the OHSAA isn't the NFL, nor should it be.

I wish the OHSAA would focus less on competitive balance and more on increasing participation numbers. High school athletes are the last true amateurs in America.

We need to concentrate on letting them be kids -- not the fairest way to help them win championships.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4190

Facebook: MLeonardRPC

Twitter:@MLeonard_RPC

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.