There probably feels sense of closure for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
There's a new way to determine divisional alignments for prep sports in the Buckeye State after voting concluded late last week.
The state's quest to help balance the playing field for public and non public schools in tournaments took a major step forward when the state's 820 schools passed the competivitive balance referendum by a 411-323 count. This was the fourth time that the OHSAA's membership voted on a competitive balance formula as it hoped to avoid the ultimate vote of separating public and non public schools into two divisions.
"We felt good about (the vote) because of the feedback we were receiving," OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Daniel Ross said during a state-wide teleconference on Friday afternoon.
The new plan works on a sport-by-sport basis and takes the rosters and examines where that respective student-athlete comes from and then uses a multiplier. All enrollments are still based on the EMIS numbers that the Ohio Department of Education utilizes.
"I think we did a good job of educating people, but we need to continue to work hard to help people understand," Ross said. "The process and system isn't that much dissimilar than last spring's, but the schools were much better educated. Plus, we admitted that we made a few mistakes, and I stood in front of people at the our townhall meetings and admitted that."
The non public schools will have to choose their attendance zone, which is the place where the bulk of their students come from. Previously, it was strictly in the town or city in which the school sat.
For instance, if St. John Central looks at its enrollment and realizes the majority of its students come from St. Clairsville, it will lock in St. Clairsville as its attendance zone. However, students who come from other towns in the area will be subject to the multiplier.
There's also a multiplier, which varies by sport because of the different number of divisions, for public schools and open enrollment students, which was big because the OHSAA wanted to make sure it didn't strictly single out the non public schools.
The new system officially takes effect for the 2016-17 school year, but will be utilized as a pilot program in 2015-16, which is the first school year of the next count.
After plenty of trying, voting, failing and revising, Ross believes the OHSAA's Competitive Balance Committee, which will continue to meet, has found the system that will get the job done.
"I don't think any state in the country uses a system similar to this," Ross said. "I very, very strongly believe that this is a very good start."
He used the word 'start' because he realizes the work is far from over.
And there's going to be some trial and error, which will be dealt with. However, a push to fully eliminate this system will have to go through the same process as the original way of getting it to be considered. There will be a survey and petition to get onto the OHSAA ballot and then the vote.
"There are always things that come up and different situations you might not have planned for," Ross said.
Ross laid out some of the penalties for schools who fabricate numbers or, as he said on a conference call announcing the current plan, "those who don't play nice in the sandbox."
Obviously, there are going to be mistakes. If those are caught and it's determined be a simple clerical error, then there will be a fine. However, if a school is determined to have actually cheated on its numbers, it could be removed or held out of the tournament for that respective sport.
As it looks on paper, and barring a huge influx of population, this system doesn't look like it'll change much for area schools directly. However, it could affect their opponents and possible post-season opponents.
Walt Skaggs - who is the Principal and Superintendent at St. Clairsville - serves on the Eastern District Athletic Board. He was confident that the vote would pass this time around.
"I don't see it making a huge impact on the schools in our district," Skaggs said. "It will level the playing field somewhat across the state as schools are bumped up. All in all, I don't see it as a bad thing. It will be interesting to see the impact it has in year one."
Until that 2015-16 school year, it's all kind of a guessing game as to how it's going to work, be received or create a 'competitive balance.'
I think about some weird things at times and OHSAA separation is one that crosses my mind each time these votes came up in the last few years.
Could you imagine the state's sports if there was separation? There have actually been a handful of votes to do that over the years.
I always guessed the majority of the state's non public schools would withdraw from the OHSAA and that could have led to much bigger allegations of recruiting, cheating or whatever accusations are thrown around by some.
Why would those non-public schools need the governing body? They could withdraw, practice and travel as they wish and poach student-athletes from all over the place.
From a sporting perspective, I guess a state title is a state title, but wouldn't it be tarnished, to a degree, if you didn't have to beat possibly the best team?
Not only would that be a detriment to the public school sporting teams, but it also hurts the public schools in the state-funding department because each student is worth so much money from the state of Ohio.
Thankfully, that seems to be avoided ... for now, anyway!
We will have more on this in the coming weeks as I plan to gauge area coaches to get their opinions.
Staskey can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter (@TLSportsSeth)