Now what? Separate State Tourneys? OHSAA expecting petition for exactly that

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Public vs Private: It won’t go away…

OHSAA commissioner Dr. Dan Ross called it the “extreme,” but it’s the
only true “Competitive Balance.” And it could be coming to a vote. A
petition – generated in Northeast Ohio – is circulating the state and
collecting signatures. The purpose? To separate public and private
schools into separate divisions for state tournaments. You thought this was over?


OHSAA commissioner Dr. Dan Ross called it the “extreme,” but it’s the only true “Competitive Balance.” And it could be coming to a vote. A petition – generated in Northeast Ohio – is circulating the state and collecting signatures. The purpose? To separate public and private schools into separate divisions for state tournaments.

You thought this was over?

Less than an hour after announcing the OHSAA’s latest “Competitive Balance Proposal” had been defeated by another narrow vote (339-301), Ross was answering questions Wednesday via teleconference about the next wave of debate. A swell is building.

“We have an issue that we need to address,” Ross said. “I think we need to step back and take a good hard look at all the issues that are involved with this, have some conversations with the people that are looking at the separation and see where this goes. Because it’s not going away. It’s been around a long time. We try really hard not to shy away from issues and do what’s in the best interest for all kids in Ohio, but that’s always going to be in the eyes of the beholder. Every district is going to take a good hard look and say ‘How is this going to affect me and is this good for us?’”

The answer again – narrowly – was “No.”

Now the real fun starts.

The last two years the OHSAA has produced two Competitive Balance Proposals (put to vote by member schools) designed to close the gap (and mouths) of the “Public vs Private” debate. The OHSAA we know now was going on the offensive – trying to find a solution before there was a bigger issue. Didn’t happen.

Since 2009, a group of superintendents from Wayne County has been generating a petition to separate state tournaments into public and private. According to Ross, that grassroots campaign has now became a “coalition” of people statewide who support separation “very strongly.”

The petition could reach fruition and the hands of the OHSAA by Dec. 1. If that happens, a referendum item to separate Ohio’s schools could be put to a vote in May 2013.

“We have known for at least a couple years that the petition drive for the separation of the tournaments was in advance,” Ross said. “These aren’t bad people. They’re good people and doing what they believe is right for them and their students.  We just agree to disagree.”

The OHSAA is now on defense.

Instead of reconvening its Competitive Balance Committee, Ross said the OHSAA will take a wait and see approach regarding the petition to separate. Once the outcome of the petition is known, the OHSAA will unveil its next move.

The “coalition” will meet again in June.

Said Ross: “We’re going to see where that goes.”

Potentially, this could be a very short trip.

If the petition meets its requirements (75 signatures, including five from each OHSAA district), it can go to vote next May. If approved at that point by over half the member schools, the separation of state tournaments would begin immediately with the 2013-14 school years.

It’s unlikely all that unfolds.

Ross used the term “journey” several times during Wednesday’s teleconference and for good reason – a resolution is far from near. But it’s apparent the discussion has merit.

Unlike previous separation proposals in 1978 and 1993, which were defeated handily, the OHSAA’s latest offerings have been close. Very close. Last year’s proposal was defeated 332-303 (52-percent to 48-percent). This year’s vote was nearly identical. Of Ohio’s 826 member schools, 78-percent voted.

During the fall a survey of Ohio’s principles showed 53-percent favored keeping public and private schools together in the same state tournament, while 43-percent favored separation. That added fuel.

“I believe that there are many schools in this state who believe they do not have a fair shot in their tournaments,” Ross said. “And 48 percent believe we can do it better. I don’t believe separation makes it better, but I think we can (improve) what we’re currently doing and keep everyone together. (That’s) the goal.”

Keeping everyone happy is proving to be difficult.

“This is one of those issues where the more conversation we have about it…the closer we’re going to come to finding a way to deal with it,” Ross said. “Separation of the tournament would be an extreme.

“I hope we never get there.”

 

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