Rogers, Over and Out: Public vs Private…Round IV Rages On

Rogers, Over and Out

By Tim Rogers

Ballots, Petitions, Memos…Anyone else getting tired of this?

I see the Wants and the Wantnots are at it again, just as they have been for the last hundred years or so.

Okay, the debate between those in favor of separate playoffs in team sports for Ohio’s public and non-public schools and those opposed  has not lasted as long as the Hundred Years War. It only seems like it.

Is anyone else getting tired of it?

The basis of this conflict is simple. The Wants, led by Wooster Triway Superintendent Dave Rice and some fellow Wayne County folk, want the Ohio High School Athletic Association to conduct separate tournaments in team sports, one for public schools and one for private schools. In my mind, segregation is best reserved when picking a gender-appropriate public restroom.

The Wantnots, most notably the OHSAA and its Board of Directors, acknowledge the current system has more flaws than Obamacare and needs revision. That is probably the only thing people will agree on regarding this topic. But, I’ll go out on a limb and bet there is a small faction that steadfastly holds onto the belief that the present system is just fine. To that group I say, don’t get too comfortable.

JJH_RogersThis is the sixth time since the late 1970s that such a movement has gained momentum. But, it is the first time either side has taken an aggressive, no-holds-barred approach to promoting its stance. And, the approach taken by OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross was met in some quarters with the same indignation as a belch in church.

Late last month Ross issued a memo to all OHSAA member school superintendents and principals. The memo was issued in response to a petition circulated by the Wants to have the separate tournament issue placed on the OHSAA ballot in May. Again. In his memo, Ross encouraged the administrators not to sign the petition. Without the requisite number of signatures the issue dies. Again. This time for at least two years.

The memo was accompanied by a full-page explanation of why the organization believes separate playoffs are not a good idea. It cited statistics such as public schools have won 251 state championships in team sports over the last 14 years to the 211 won by non-public schools.

It was not the first time the OHSAA expressed its feelings on the issue. But, it was the first time either organization has encouraged its members to squash the opposition’s movement before it really got underway.

“Separating the tournaments is not the best solution and has the potential to greatly harm schools and their student-athletes and create even bigger issues that could drastically change the landscape of interscholastic athletics in Ohio,” the memo said in part.

Of course, Ross’s memo did not sit well with Mr. Rice, who promptly shared his feelings in a lengthy article in the Wooster Daily Record and an email that he sent state-wide to principals and superintendents. Rice, who is one of 32 members of the OHSAA’s Competitive Balance Committee, was not as miffed with the OHSAA’s opposition to separate playoffs as he was Ross’s attempt to squash the petition.

“I would fully expect the OHSAA to campaign against separate tournaments if it actually becomes a referendum issue, like they did last year,” Rice told the Daily Record’s Aaron Dorksen. “I never expected them to campaign against signing the petition. The petition process is part of the OHSAA by-laws and the legal opinion I received said in no way should the OHSAA interfere with the collection of signatures”

Understandable. Rice’s passion for this issue is undeniable. I am sure he feels he is doing the right thing for all the public school students in his district and beyond.

The Wants point to the statistic that while non-public schools make up 17 percent of the OHSAA’s membership they have won more than 40 percent of the state titles.

But, there are at least two huge elephants in the room that neither side is acknowledging, at least publicly.

Let’s face it. There are schools of all shapes and sizes — public and private alike – that simply will never win a state championship in any team sport by either gender. I can name 50 without even opening the OHSAA Directory. No amount of revising, expanding, realigning, adjusting or tinkering — or even segregating — is going to change that. Not everyone should get a trophy, much to the chagrin of all the child psychologists out there. That is called cold, hard reality and a situation that we all face in most facets of life. It can almost be deemed one of life’s lessons. You deal with it and move on. Sadly, there are few level playing fields in life.

The real issue here – even if neither side wants to admit it – is recruiting. The public schools have cried foul over this issue for years but the definition of recruiting is so ambiguous that most who might be guilty of such behavior have gotten away with it forever. Recruiting goes on all over the place and it is not restricted to private schools. End recruiting and all that goes with it and much of the problem will be solved.

If the referendum reaches the ballot and the vote goes in favor of separate playoffs the rumored threat of Ohio’s 136 private schools pulling out of the OHSAA is remote. There is a much larger and real threat out there that everyone with an interest in high school sports should fear.

It is possible the Ohio legislature would disband the OHSAA or drastically reduce its roll in how athletics are run. The athletic association would be run out of the governor’s office.

Swell. Just what we need. More politics in high school sports. I can hardly wait.


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