Could the state of Ohio finally see a resolution to the yearly discussion of competitive balance within prep sports?
The Ohio High School Athletic Association certainly feels that it has a good chance when schools vote on yet another revised method of determining an athletic count, which would set the divisions for the 'team' sports.
And thankfully there will be no vote to separate the public and private schools into their own divisions.
The new plan, which was devised by the 27-member Competitive Balance Committee, uses many of the same methods as last year's, which altered the 'athletic count' numbers by school by sport. However, a few tweaks and a bit more clarification were made.
"I absolutely believe this (idea) is better than last year," said OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Daniel Ross during a teleconference with state-wide media last week. "Last year's was a whole lot better than the one prior, but everyone on our committee, and our board, honestly believes this is the best proposal we've had so far."
The OHSAA's competitive balance proposal was narrowly defeated last spring. According to Ross, had 20 schools voted differently, the issue would have passed and the Buckeye State would be on its way to implementing the changes.
"When we surveyed our principals in the fall, the number one issue that they thought we should be dealing with was competitive balance," Ross said. "It was four times greater than the second issue, which was dealing with eligibility and transfers."
As is the case currently, the 'athletic count' number will begin with the school's EMIS count, which is supplied to the OHSAA by the Ohio Department of Education.
For public schools in a community with just one public school, like most of the Ohio Valley, each sport will submit its roster, including participants in grades 9-12 and not just varsity. The next step is determining where the players on the roster reside. If they're all residents of the that specific school district, there will be no addition.
If they live outside of the school district, have attended the school since seventh grade, add one to the count. If they've come to the school district since their seventh grade year, it becomes sport specific.
The sport specific number that is utilized as the multiplier is determined by the sport, based on the number of divisions that compete. For instance, football will be a two because there are seven divisions. The four-division sports - basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball - will use a five and soccer - a three-division sport - will use six.
The biggest change was made in the private school section of the proposal. Last year's required the non public school to utilize the numbers from the attendance zone in which it sat. For instance, St. John Central is in Bellaire's attendance zone.
However, the OHSAA realized that many non public schools are getting their students from feeder schools outside of that attendance zone.
Now, the non public schools will determine where their kids come from. For instance, if the majority of St. John Central's students come from St. Mary's in St. Clairsville, that would be utilized for SJC and it must remain that way for two years.
So, the students who come to a non public school from their designate feeder school, and have been there since seventh grade, aren't counted against their athletic count number.
The other factors for non public schools remain the same.
"The people on the committee and our board believe this is the fairest proposal for both public and non public schools," Ross said. "Not a person left the room with an issue with this."
The schools will have a chance to learn much more about the proposal in upcoming town hall meetings. There will be four held around the state, but the locations weren't announced.
Along with the meetings, the OHSAA is planning on utilizing a more up-tempo approach to encourage all of the schools to vote. Last spring, between 70 and 80 percent of the membership returned a ballot. While that was a very high number, Ross wants to see 100 percent.
"We need them all," Ross said. "This is that important (of an issue), so we'll continue to encourage them the best we can."
So is the issue to formally separate private and public schools finally dead?
Ross hopes so, but he can never be totally sure.
"The schools have the right, on an annual basis, to raise it again, through petition," Ross said. "I hope that most of our schools feel there's a much better option than separation, and we believe this is one of those."
The faction of schools that's been pushing the hardest for separation - led by the administration of Triway High School in Wooster - actually did take out the petition to bring the separation vote back up. However, it didn't have the number of signatures required for it to make it onto the ballot.