Chris Oaks spoke with Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass:
Q: Earlier this month, Roger Bacon High School and the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed Division in Hamilton County filed suit against the OHSAA over its competitive balance formula that is used to assign schools into divisions for the purposes of high school athletics. It’s a complicated formula, but in simple terms what is competitive balance?
A: In the past, we’ve always divided schools into divisions based on the official enrollment numbers reported by the Ohio Department of Education. With the advent of open enrollment, there came to be the belief that for competitive reasons those figures should be weighted to reflect the number of transfer enrollments from outside a school’s traditional borders. So a plan was developed and approved by our member schools which takes that into account, and we used that for the first time last year.
Q: As I understand it, plaintiffs in this suit take issue with a particular part of the formula which they say treats students as transfers once they reach high school even if they have been attending private school, in this case the Catholic schools of Hamilton County, for their entire academic career. Don’t they have a point that perhaps this is unfair?
A: Our argument is not whether or not the formula is fair, or whether it needs to be modified. The point is that this is a rule which was studied extensively over the course of several years and was voted on by our member schools. Furthermore, there is a process in place to modify any existing OHSAA policy. We strongly feel that this is the proper way to address these issues, rather than through the courts.
Beyond that, the OHSAA is a voluntary association. I understand that there is no competing organization, but we don’t prohibit any member school from competing against a non-member school. No one is shunned if they don’t join, and by joining our members agree to abide by the policies that members themselves put in place.
Q: There are, however, inherent differences between public and private schools — even with open enrollment. Can’t an argument be made that there should be separate organizations, or at least separate postseason tournaments that can account for those differences? Other states have such arrangements, why not Ohio?
A: That’s certainly been considered over the years. In fact, the competitive balance policy came about to head off a referendum which would have done exactly that. And while we would certainly concede that implementing policies equitable to all 819 member schools is a challenge, I don’t think separation would ultimately be in the best interest of high school athletics in our state.
One other thing to consider, because this often comes back to the topic of athletic recruiting, is that if private and parochial schools were to form their own organization they would be free to allow recruiting at any level they choose, and there would be no oversight or recourse for public schools in that scenario.
Q: This lawsuit, and the preliminary injunction issued against the OHSAA, have no impact on the fall sports season as of now. But the clock is ticking, is it not?
A: It is. And I believe as leader of this organization, it’s incumbent on me to hope for the best and plan for the worst. There is a hearing set for Aug. 28 which we are preparing for. In the meantime, we are pressing forward with business as usual. While it does not affect the contests that are taking place now, it could potentially affect regional assignments and divisional breakdowns come tournament time, and it could certainly affect how computer points are assigned in the football playoff standings.
Q: On that point, the first computer points standings are traditionally published beginning after Week 4 of the football season. Clearly, you would want to have this issue resolved by that time, correct?
A: We would have to have it resolved by that time. And I can assure you that we have staff members working diligently to account for all possible outcomes.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 419-422-4545.