OHSAA Board likely “to act” on Public-Private Proposal this Thursday


Public vs Private: It won’t go away…

In the summer the OHSAA created a “Competitive Balance Committee” to
research the issue of public vs private and form a proposal for future state tournaments. Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 13, the OHSAA Board of Directors is
expected to review that proposal
. It’s likely to act
on it during its official meeting Thursday
. In three days, Ohio could have a new state tournament
– kind of.

When told to clean up instead of play, to finish dinner before desert, and to go to sleep instead of 10 more minutes of Scooby-Doo, my six-year old daughter responds with the “that’s not fair” card. My response? “Life’s not fair.”

And you know what else isn’t? OHSAA state tournaments.

There’s no more passionate and heated high school sports debate in Ohio than the “Public vs Private” argument that’s raged for years. Perhaps only the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is bigger athletically in the Buckeye State. Literally.

That being said, whichever side of the fence you’re on, here’s where I stand:

1. The current set-up, with public and private schools playing in the same tournaments based on enrollment, isn’t fair.

2. What should be done about it? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Before I get exiled for that statement, let me elaborate.

Everyone in my family is a public school graduate. My wife teaches at a public school. My mother is the board president of a public school. My kids will attend public schools.
I however am not of the thinking that public schools should only compete against other public schools for state titles. I think the current system should be left alone. Regardless if – yes – it’s “not fair.”

Too many people, though, don’t agree with me and think a change is warranted.

Influenced by continuous chatter from fans and a survey provided by several administrators from public schools in Wayne County, the OHSAA is again revisiting the issue.

Over the summer the OHSAA created a “Competitive Balance Committee” made up of representatives from both public and private schools to research the issue and form a proposal based on their findings.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 13, the OHSAA Board of Directors is expected to review that proposal at its work session. It’s likely to act on it during its official meeting Thursday.

In a matter of two days, Ohio could have a new state tournament structure – kind of.

If the Board accepts the proposal, it will be included as one of the referendum items that OHSAA member schools will vote on during the annual referendum voting process, which is May 1-16. If the Board accepts the proposal, the OHSAA will issue a press release Thursday.

So what exactly does this proposal contain? No one is supposed to know – but someone says they do. Akron Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer wrote a piece that ran Sunday detailing in depth what the Competitive Balance Committee supposedly will propose Wednesday. He was given a draft of the proposal by someone with inside info.

In response, the OHSAA said it’s “disappointed that someone with knowledge of the proposal sent a draft of the proposal to a media outlet before it was presented to the Board.”

According to Dyer, the proposal is said to include a formula based on criteria generated by the mixture of enrollment, geographic boundaries, socioeconomic student body make-up and recent athletic success.

If so it’s a bold attempt to be unique. But it may also be just the latest “solution” to get shot down.

This is not the first time the OHSAA has looked into separating state championships.

Three years ago a similar committee was formed and it concluded that no changes needed to be made.

Twice in the OHSAA’s history the idea of splitting public and private schools into different tournaments has been voted upon. In 1978, the proposal was defeated 83.9 percent to 16.1 percent. In 1993 the proposal was defeated 66.8 percent to 33.2 percent.

I think another vote is coming.

And personally I hope it gets defeated again.

Do we really want eight state champions in boys basketball? Do we want 10 football state champions? Do we want 12 soccer state champions?

Youth sports have already been watered down with trophies for participation. Now we’re talking about watering down the meaning of high school state championships.

Athletics are about overcoming, working hard, perseverance and performance. They’re not about bickering, excuses and in all seriousness – fairness.

Believe me, I have reasons to hate private schools.

When I was in high school, my basketball team made the district finals four years in a row and twice made the regional tournament. Three years in a row – twice in the district final and once in the regional semifinals – we were knocked out by the same Cincinnati parochial school.

Looking back on it, I remember being mad that we lost – not that we lost to a catholic school. I didn’t care what city my opponent came from or where they were going home to sleep. I just cared that they beat us.

Too many times nowadays though some public schools lose games to private schools even before they compete because the public school has been reminded “how unfair” it is that they are even playing. There is a “poor me” attitude and I’ve seen it firsthand.

I’ve witnessed a great public school team on the state level accept a 20-something beat down to a private school because that’s what was supposed to happen – and they let it. At the press conference after the game the atmosphere was “oh well, what did you want us to do?” How about compete? Show some pride?

I’ve also heard from countless people that small public schools have these “Once in a lifetime teams” that don’t get a chance to play in the state tournament because they got knocked out by a private school. Being a “Once in a lifetime team” does NOT entitle you to a trip to state. There are a lot of “Once in a lifetime” teams that never make the state tournament.

Now…if SOMETHING were to be done to make the playing field fair, I think there’s only one real solution and it is NOT the one the OHSAA will supposedly be presented with.

While I give the OHSAA committee credit for trying to please everyone with its proposal, the only real solution is to have completely SEPARATE tournaments for public and private schools. We don’t need multipliers and formulas based partly on free lunches to decide who plays who where and in what division. We just need two tournaments.

Public and private schools could still play each other in the regular season but once postseason play started they would split.

The “extra” private school state tournaments would require more tournament sites and personnel to be utilized and potentially extra days and locations added to state tournaments. Financially it could be a blessing or a curse for the OHSAA depending on how executed.

And speaking of blessings and curses, one incident that’s continually and unfairly plastered as the poster child for change is Delphos St. John’s 77-6 throttling of Shadyside in the Division VI state football final in December. No offense to Shadyside, but some will have you believe they were the best D-VI public school team in the state and severely over-matched enrollment-wise heading into their meeting with Delphos St. John’s.

The truth is that Shadyside has 101 boys. Delphos St. John’s has 102.

The truth is too that Delphos St. John’s narrowly escaped Marion Local 17-13 in Week 9.

Marion Local is a public school and could perhaps become the biggest winner should private schools be counted differently.

Without Delphos St. John’s – or Norwalk St. Paul and Newark Catholic – in D-VI, Marion Local, who has lost to the Blue Jays three times in the playoffs, might have seven state football titles by now instead of just four.

Which raises another question? What do you do with catholic public schools?

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