High School Sports: Armageddon is upon us

Since the OHSAA was formed in 1908,private and public schools have been in competition for wins, players and state titles. Private schools have made high school football a national phenomenon. ESPN has showcased GCL South teams multiple times. Without the private schools, the OHSAA would not be what it is today. With all the money and publicity the private schools bring to the table, you would think the OHSAA would praise them but contrary to popular belief the private schools are being bullied by the jealous public schools. This May, a referendum is up for vote to split the private and public schools in the postseason. Dave Rice, superintendent at Triway Schools in Wooster, Ohio, put out the referendum to combat what he says is an unfair advantage for private schools in recruiting students. Even though that used to be true, now public schools have allowed open enrollment, so students outside their district can attend their school. Mr. Rice doesn’t believe public schools use their open enrollment policies to “recruit” but that advantage is still there. The issue that has sparked this referendum is competitive balance. Competitive balance gives every school the same chance to win, public or private. This is not the first referendum trying to achieve competitive balance; in the last two years there have been two votes to reconstruct the divisions which narrowly lost both times. If the vote passes, there are many different scenarios that could play out. Most likely the private schools will leave the OHSAA and form a new association. They would then be free to make recruiting legal, offer athletic scholarships, and get rid of the one year waiting period after transferring. With the new rules, coaches could go sit on the front lawn of any school and actively recruit any athlete who walks out. Ken Laake, Jr., A.D. at Miami Valley Schools said, “At first, I was South Carolina, ready for secession. But when I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t a good idea.” Mr. Laake is not the only one who thinks this is a negative. Jan Wilking, A.D. at Oak Hills expressed her disapproval during my interview with her. “Oak Hills will be voting it down. We are stronger as one.” Norwood is another public school that will be turning it down. Their Athletic Director, J.D. Foust said, “To be the best, you have to beat the best.” This seems to be a common thought throughout public schools. The public school state championship might be diluted if they play separately. No one said it better than Rob Hamann, A.D. at Deer Park, “My fear is that the public state title would be like winning the NIT tournament in college basketball.” This could lead many public schools to vote it down because no school wants to win a state championship and still get criticized for not beating the best. Right now the consensus around the city is that it will pass. What does this mean for our beloved high school sports? No one really knows that answer but this May, high school sports in Ohio could be changed forever.