Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
By Randy Bruns
Voting on competitive balance proposal ends today
  After failing last year in an attempt to change the way high school divisions are aligned, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) is giving it another shot this year.
Spurred by concerns - whether real or perceived - about 'competitive balance' in high school sports, the OHSAA is putting some proposed changes to a vote that began on May 1st and ends today. Last year's proposal by the OHSAA failed by a margin of 332-to-303.
The competitive balance issue was first raised by a group of administrators from Wayne County, who presented data showing that almost half of state championships were being won by private schools, though such schools make up just 17 percent of the OHSAA member schools. As a result, the OHSAA put together a competitive balance committee to study the topic and make recommendations as to how to remedy things.
Last year's proposal was three-pronged, with additions or subtractions to a school's enrollment being made based on a boundary factor, a socioeconomic factor and a tradition factor.
The boundary factor would have added to a school's enrollment based on whether or not the school was private or public and whether or not the school district had specified boundaries. A public school with boundaries - e.g. a school that didn't offer open-enrollment - would not have had any additions to its enrollment, while a private school with no boundaries would have had 10 percent added to its enrollment.
The socioeconomic factor was to be measured solely by the number of free lunch applications within a district, with 10 percent of the total number of such applications being subtracted from the school's enrollment.
These first two factors remained unchanged in this year's proposal, but the tradition factor has been tweaked in an effort to make the proposal more palatable to voters.
In its first incarnation, the tradition factor was much more punitive as it would have added up to 40 percent to a school's enrollment if it had won four state championships in a particular sport over the prior four years. After the defeat of last year's proposal, much of the feedback provided to the OHSAA centered on the tradition factor, which was deemed too severe.
In response, the tradition factor in this year's proposal was altered significantly to tame down the penalty for success. Instead of looking only at the past four years, this year's version takes into account the past eight years in a particular sport. If a school has reached the regional level of the postseason in four of the past eight years, six percent will be added to its enrollment, while appearances in the state tournament in four of the prior eight seasons would result in a 10-percent increase in enrollment.
Despite the changes to the tradition factor, many local administrators remain opposed to the basic concept of the competitive balance proposal, mainly due to the tradition factor.
"I am against the proposal because of the tradition factor that is included in the proposed change," explained Marion Local's High School principal and football coach Tim Goodwin. "Dr. Ross (Dan Ross, the OHSAA Commissioner) has come out and stated that the tradition factor causes students to enroll in or transfer to a certain high school to play a specific sport there. That is not the case at Marion Local or other area schools for that matter. It appears as though successful programs will be punished for a perceived advantage, even in situations where that advantage doesn't exist."
Parkway's Athletic Director Doug Hughes sees things in much the same light.
"I don't think it's fair at all," stated Hughes. "You're penalizing teams for their success and I don't think it's a good factor to include. In fact, I think it's even worse now than it was a year ago because it's now covering an eight-year period. The kids that could be affected are now in fourth or fifth grade and we know that a majority of schools have their ups and downs."
Coldwater's Athletic Director Eric Goodwin believes that if passed, the new proposal may do more harm than good.
"The quote from the OHSAA is that 'success breeds success' and good programs draw in good athletes," said Goodwin. "This is not true in Mercer County or the Northwest District. They are only concerned about stopping what is going on in the large cities and believe this is a way to do it.
"This competitive balance proposal will not eliminate the problem but will actually increase it," continued Goodwin. "If you think about it, the schools that are recruiting and being successful doing this are simply going to recruit harder. This does not address what they are doing now. For those schools that don't recruit, this is simply saying that if you want to continue to compete at the higher level, you better start recruiting, which is a shame."
Even with little local support, at least one local administrator believes that the second time will be a charm for the OHSAA's competitive balance proposal.
"I'll be surprised if it doesn't pass," concluded Hughes. "It was real close the last time, and almost 200 schools didn't even cast a ballot. I was just disappointed that it failed the last time and when it came back again only one thing had been modified."
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