Opinions vary among high school coaches regarding the competitive-balance referendum that is being considered by Ohio High School Athletic Association members.
Having separate public and private sports playoff tournaments is not an option on this referendum, which schools can vote on until Wednesday.
Instead, having one tournament with the customary divisions is on the table. It would place an addition on a school’s initial enrollment count on a sport-by-sport basis that is based on the number of students on a team’s roster who reside outside the school’s district or designated attendance zone.
“I think something needs to be done to level the playing field,” Hudson girls basketball coach Dennis Lawler said. “Unfortunately, I think whatever proposal, especially this one, will make it tougher for schools like us. I am pretty sure it could bump up schools like St. Vincent-St. Mary and Archbishop Hoban to Division I.
“Something needs to be done. As a fan, VASJ [Villa Angela-St. Joseph] was an unbelievable [boys basketball] team to watch and it was tough for anybody to compete with them in [Division IV].”
OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross said this is the “fairest proposal and best one so far.”
Public school view
Buchtel boys basketball coach Stephen White, a 1985 St. V-M graduate, is not happy with Ohio’s current athletic landscape.
“If you look at VASJ, that was like a Division I college JV team,” White said. “I went to a Catholic school, and I know they might not be happy with what I’m saying, but some of these schools should move up to Division I. VASJ, St. Vincent-St. Mary and some of these other schools should be playing in Division I.”
Firestone football coach Tim Flossie said inequities exist.
“This option might create more problems,” Flossie said. “I think it is just a way out of them facing the idea that they should have public and private school divisions. Myself personally, I think that is why they are discussing this one. I think that, especially in the lower divisions, it is unfair. St. Ignatius and St. Edward have large schools such as Mentor in Division I, but Division II, III and IV schools have to go against Catholic schools that draw from a wider area.”
Firestone boys basketball coach Dave Milo said he just wants “to play the best.”
“I kind of like it the way it is right now,” Milo said. “You look at our non-conference schedule; we played St. Vincent-St. Mary, who is a Division II school and St. Edward, who is a Division I school, and several other DI schools. I like playing DI schools.… It might be different in football. I can see where football coaches have a different opinion.”
Manchester football coach Jim France said “the competitive balance proposal has been a joke from the beginning.” Nordonia football coach Jeffrey Fox said “a competitive balance plan makes sense in theory, but there are a lot of details to be worked out.”
Boys basketball coaches Matt Cash of Nordonia and Jeff Brink of Hudson don’t like the proposal, which could go into effect in August 2015 if passed by a majority vote.
“The competitive balance item does nothing for Nordonia or other small Division I schools,” Cash said. “How is moving St. Vincent-St. Mary, [Columbus] DeSales and other private DII schools up to our division supposed to help us? I realize why Triway and other Wayne County schools are in favor, because it leaves the smaller divisions with less competition. However, for us, St. Ignatius, St. Edward, etc. will still be there and with the new enrollment numbers these schools, along with Medina, Brunswick, Mentor, etc., have over 300-to-400 more boys than Nordonia.”
Brink said current tournaments are “a debacle in terms of equity and fairness,” but that the “proposed multiplier does not cure the illness.”
“To bump Cleveland St. Joe’s from Division IV to Division III only moves the problem to a different division,” Brink said. “The system is broken, and we can choose to ignore the fact that pushing a parochial school or an open enrollment powerhouse up a division does little to solve the problem. Regardless, you still have schools that have no ability to get players competing with schools that have the ability to strategically replace players to address weaknesses.”
Revere boys basketball coach Dean Rahas wants “a level playing field.”
“You always want to play against the best competition, but at the same time, not an all-star team,” Rahas said. “I understand kids going to private schools K-12 because of the religious experience, but when kids go to a public school K-8 and then all of a sudden religion becomes important during high school?”
Tallmadge football coach Joe Vassalotti has “mixed feelings because obviously, the private schools draw from much a wider area.”
“They have been more successful across the board in the state tournaments, but personally I like the challenge of playing the best,” Vassalotti said. “We have played a private school three times in the state playoffs, and we won two of them. Do I think it is completely fair, probably not. I can see both sides.”
Private school view
Private schools’ attendance zones would be attached to the public high school in their district. For example; Hoban, St. V-M and Our Lady of the Elms would be attached to the nearest Akron Public Schools member and fall under its attendance zone.
“It does not take into account the traditional method utilized by Catholic schools admissions’ streams,” Hoban boys basketball coach T.K. Griffith said. “Our feeder schools are not in the Akron Garfield district per se, and therefore we will be penalized for doing it the right way and using kids who naturally progress through the CYO system into Hoban, but who are from outside the Garfield district, i.e. Holy Family, St. Hilary, IHM, St. Anthony, St. Sebastian, St. Francis de Sales, etc.”
Dan Boarman coached football at Copley and currently coaches at St. V-M.
“They are seeking to find the fairest way to create competitive balance, but I really don’t get it,” Boarman said. “In the old days, we used to talk about working harder. I know the bigger schools are not happy with this. Who is this an advantage for, some of the smaller schools? I don’t know if there is a system that will be equal for all. I know it is aimed at parochials, and we are one of the ones being mentioned constantly.”
The multiplier varies by sport. Basketball teams would have a multiplier of five added for players who are outside their district. Football teams would have a multiplier of two.
St. V-M boys basketball coach Dru Joyce II thinks this option is “better than a separation,” but “there is a lot to be desired in the proposal.”
“My only question is how did they come up with the multipliers?” Joyce said. “Is this a plan that was put out by the OHSAA or other people? That would be my only question. I can understand if they want to have a multiplier, that’s then fine, but five for basketball and two for football. I don’t understand the disparity.”
Walsh boys basketball coach John Norris is happy there will still be one tournament.
“No schools or kids would have benefited from such a separation, and the additional repercussions were unknown,” Norris said. “The new item for competitive balance highlights the differences between public schools that draw outside their boundaries versus those that stay within their defined boundary. I do not think this will silence those who criticize private schools for the fact that by existence, they must pull outside of any boundary defined by their geography.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.