Today we continue our dissection of the OHSAA’s Competitive Balance Proposal. Issue 2? ‘Penalizing Success.’ That’s what the proposed ‘Tradition Factor’ will do to teams that win regional and state titles. No doubt this debate stirs anger, but the ‘Tradition Factor’ might be the aspect that causes the most heated arguments…
CBP Series Article 2: Penalizing Success – throw the ‘Tradition Factor’ out
At its core, the goal of the Competitive Balance Committee was to nullify private schools’ advantages and to give public schools a fighting chance when it comes to state tournaments. What it’s actually done though is penalize Ohio’s most prized athletic class – the public school program that wins repeatedly regardless. Granted there aren’t many and most of those that exist are located in the mythical Midwest Athletic Conference.
An affiliation that’s won more state football titles than any other in state history (20 total since 1989), the MAC’s most dominant program right now surprisingly isn’t on the gridiron.
Try to rationalize these numbers for a four-year run: three state titles, four regional finals, a varsity record of 101-6 and less than 25 combined losses at the varsity, reserve and freshman level. No joke.
That lunacy was generated by the Marion Local volleyball team the last four years.
Under the current Competitive Balance Proposal and its “Tradition Factor,” Marion Local would bump up to D-III based on it’s dominance in Ohio’s smallest division. Three state titles and four regional finals weigh negatively regardless of enrollment, boundaries and free lunches.
“(As a volleyball program we’ve) been very blessed the past four years,” Marion Local coach Amy Steininger said. “But using the (proposed) formula for ‘Tradition Factor,’ our volleyball program would bump up to Division III based solely on our past success.”
Additional MAC casualties under the current CBP could include Marion Local football, Delphos St. John’s football, Coldwater football, Minster girls basketball and Versailles volleyball.
“How would this affect our football program? Here’s as simple as it gets,” Coldwater athletic director Eric Goodwin said. “If this was in effect this past year, we wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in Division IV. We end up being State Runner-Up in Division V, but do not qualify for Division IV? How fair would that have been? I would like (OHSAA) Commissioner Dan Ross to come to Coldwater and tell the kids and community that not only would they have not been the State Runner-up, they would not have even been in the playoffs due to a new format he is promoting. Instead of thanking a school such as ours for doing everything the right way, he is slapping us for it. We’ve only had one open enrollment kid ever play football at Coldwater and he came here in sixth grade.”
The Cavaliers have open enrollment as a district and their free lunch count isn’t enough to outweigh their on-field success. Coldwater has been to the playoffs 15 of the last 16 years and 14 straight. Over that period they’ve won nine regional titles.
“(I mean) What?! Are you kidding me,” Goodwin said. “In the past four years Marion Local volleyball won three state titles and was regional runner- up once. They had a great group of girls go through including Alyssa Winner who will be playing at Ohio State next season. The result of this? The sixth-grade girls at Marion Local watching in the stands and cheering them on will have to play against larger schools because the girls ahead of them were too good?
“This is similar to the stupid things the NCAA does. A college athlete gets recruited illegally by a coach. The school then gets put on probation. The coach gets another higher paying job, the kid goes to another school or to the pros and who pays the price? The coach and the kids coming in.”
Delphos St. Johns is feeling the heat too. The Blue Jays have played in the last three D-VI football state finals and have won two titles, including last year’s state record 77-6 blitz of Shadyside. A lot of supporters of the CBP point to DSJ’s rout as an example of why change is warranted. Under the proposal DSJ would bump up to D-V.
“In regards to our football program this is not fair to us and to those other programs who are going to get punished – and yes, this is a punishment for being successful in my eyes,” DSJ head coach Todd Schulte said. “The players that are going to get punished are the kids that were winning the state championships. To me that is very disheartening. What happened to rewarding those that work hard and have success by doing it the right way?”
Statewide, additional public school powers that could potentially get burned are: Ada (football), Berlin Hiland (girls basketball), Liberty-Benton (girls basketball), Convoy Crestview (softball), Hebron Lakewood (softball), West Liberty-Salem (softball), Strasburg-Franklin (softball) and Fort Loramie (baseball and girls basketball). There are others, like say…Chagrin Falls football. The Tigers have made the last two D-IV state finals.
“Our district is NOT in support of this proposal,” Chagrin Falls football coach Mark Iammarino said. “I think we all agree that something needs to be done. (But) Chagrin Falls (a public school with closed enrollment) would be penalized more with the passage of this new proposal than if nothing was done.
“I think it is wrong to penalize a public school district without open enrollment simply for their athletic success. We haven’t always been successful. We were 4-16 my first two seasons here. But through hard work and developing a program from youth on up, we have been successful.”
The kicker? Some private schools could potentially benefit from the CBP, especially in football. Examples are Springfield Catholic and Newark Catholic. Although both are playoff regulars, they own one state title and three regional titles combined in the last seven years. Due to lack of “tradition” factor (imagine that?), the Irish and Green Wave could remain in D-VI, while DSJ, Lehman Catholic and Norwalk St. Paul bump up.
The “Tradition Factor” alone will force several other schools to move divisions as well, most noticeably Kettering Alter (IV to III) and Youngstown Ursuline (V to IV) in football, Worthington Christian (III to II) in boys soccer, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (II to I) in boys basketball and Hathaway Brown and Alter in girls basketball (II to I).
Said Schulte: “People are going to vote on this that are not very educated on what the big picture affect is going to be on all of Ohio’s athletics.”
“Let me ask you this,” Goodwin added. “If (Youngstown) Ursuline would have moved up to Division IV in football, would they have won it? Yes. If Delphos St. John’s would have moved up to Division V, would they have won it? Yes. How does this address the issue then?”
Concluded Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary athletic director Andy Jalwan: “My biggest problem with the new proposal is considering past tournament success as a factor…it punishes students who aren’t even enrolled at our school yet.”
Steininger loathes the CBP but could live with her team being “punished” by it for being successful.
“While I don’t agree with the ‘Tradition Factor’ and especially the percentage they are applying to it, it doesn’t bother me if we get moved up because we are very familiar with playing teams that are in larger divisions in the regular season and it would just be a different challenge for us,” said Steininger, whose teams are 18-2 against private schools since 2007. “We are still going to work hard to win a state championship no matter what division we are in. As long as it is applied across the state for every school, I would understand.”
It’s a script Marion Local’s football team has already authored. In 2007, the Flyers, after bumping up a division due to enrollment, beat Youngstown Ursuline for the D-V state football championship. Marion Local had won three prior state titles in D-VI, including 2006. At that time head coach Tim Goodwin also mentioned the bump in class being a new “challenge” for his program.
Not shocking that Steininger and Goodwin own seven state titles combined. Some schools and coaches thrive on ‘challenges.’ Others however do not.
COMPETITIVE BALANCE PROPOSAL SERIES
Monday: What about Division I?