OHSAA Considers New Formula for Tournament Divisions

This is a proposal at this point and will be submitted to the member schools for a vote this spring (from ohsaa.org):

OHSAA Board of Directors Tackles Competitive
Balance Concerns
Referendum Issue is First Step in Possible Changes on How Schools are
Placed Into Tournament Divisions
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Acting on a recommendation from the Ohio High School Athletic Association
(OHSAA) Competitive Balance Committee, the OHSAA Board of Directors today unanimously placed a
new bylaw up for vote of the OHSAA membership that would be the first step toward possible changes on
how schools are assigned to tournament divisions. The proposed new bylaw, which will be voted upon by
OHSAA member schools during the annual referendum voting process in May, states that “each school
shall be placed into tournament divisions based on its sport-by-sport athletic count.” Schools would not be
separated into tournaments for public schools and non-public schools, nor would a “multiplier” be applied to
non-public schools to increase their enrollment, which a few other states utilize. Rather, the enrollment
numbers for all schools (both public and non-public) would be entered into a three-part formula to establish
their “athletic count.”
The proposed bylaw goes on to say that the formula for determining “athletic counts” and to which
sports the athletic counts shall be applied will be determined every other year by the Board of Directors and
will be listed in the OHSAA’s General Sports Regulations. If approved, implementation of the new formula
would begin no later than the 2013-14 school year. In addition, a standing committee would be formed to
monitor the effectiveness of the athletic count formula and to recommend to the Board of Directors any
changes in the weight to be given to any one or more of the factors in the formula.
At the present time, all schools are placed into tournament divisions based strictly on enrollment
figures that the schools submit to the Ohio Department of Education. The proposed three-part formula to
establish athletic counts would require the OHSAA to also include a school boundary factor (how
students are obtained – non-public schools with no boundaries; non-public schools with limited boundaries;
public schools with statewide open enrollment; public schools with adjacent open enrollment, and public
schools with no open enrollment), a socioeconomic factor (the number of free lunch participants) and a
tradition factor (state championship game appearances, state tournament appearances and regional
finals appearances). The school boundary and tradition factors could increase a school’s enrollment while
— more —
OHSAA Board of Directors Action -2-2-2
the socioeconomic factor could decrease a school’s enrollment. The tradition factor is the only one of the
three that would be implemented on a sport-by-sport basis. Once all three factors are applied to the
enrollment count, each school will have a sport-by-sport “athletic count” for purposes of tournament division
“The issue of competitive balance has been discussed for years not only in Ohio but also in other
states,” said OHSAA Commissioner Daniel B. Ross, Ph. D. “Ohio is unique in that our public schools have
the option to approve open enrollment policies, but, at the same time, there’s no question that most nonpublic
schools in the state have no geographical boundaries in which they can secure students and the
result has been a disproportionate number of championships won by those schools.
“The meetings we have conducted with the Competitive Balance Committee have been both
productive and professional, and I believe the proposal from the group is fair and equitable and we will see
some leveling of the playing field.
“Competitive balance is a complex issue,” Ross continued. “The formula recommended by the
committee is not as complex as it sounds, nor is it as complex as any of the viable alternatives and the
unintended consequences of those alternatives.”
The Board’s current plan is to propose that athletic counts only be utilized in the sports of football,
soccer and volleyball in the fall; basketball in the winter, and baseball and softball in the spring.
Consideration will be given to add other sports in the future.
The OHSAA Competitive Balance Committee was formed in January 2010 in response to concerns
raised by a group of school administrators in northeast Ohio who conducted a study that showed that 43
percent (146 of 340) of the state championships in selected team sports between 1999 and 2010 have
been won by non-public schools, even though non-public schools make up only 17 percent of the total
membership of the OHSAA. The OHSAA Competitive Balance Committee met numerous times throughout
2010 in an attempt to identify competitive balance factors and to propose changes that would bring the
competitive inequities into balance. The Committee was comprised of 29 school administrators and
coaches from across the state from public and non-public schools both large and small along with members
of the OHSAA Board of Directors and administrative staff and representatives from both the state
superintendents and state principals associations.
In the near future, the OHSAA will place on its website examples of how the athletic count formula
could look when applied.

I think its a laudable goal to try and make the divisions more “fair” than simply dividing the schools into x number of equal sized chunks based soley on enrollment figures.  But I would be curious to see the exact formulas.  While I can see the utility of a socioeconomic formula or a competitive history formula I would hope they carry less weight than the enrollment status of the school, especially the competitive history formula.  My alma mater, East Liverpool, was state runner-up in baseball in 1969; do we get pushed into a larger division because of a randomly good ball club my parents’ senior year?  I think it would be useful to only use more recent history, say the past 10 years or so.  Of course, its a give that 4 teams will make the state semifinals, and 8 teams the Regional finals in a given year in a given sport in a given division.  A school might have a group of kids that are really good at, say, volleyball, and then they graduate, and then the next biannual determination of divisions rolls around and a group of kids that aren’t nearly as good at digging and setting is bumped into a higher division.  So that formula could cause unintended consequences.

The socioeconomic factor certainly makes sense.  A public school in, say, Upper Arlington, has obvious advantages on a public school of the same size in Cleveland public.  But again if this formula is too strong it can create unintended consequences.

The school boundary formula is another way of weighting private schools without coming out and saying they are weighting private schools.  Mind you, I’m not saying its a bad thing to weight things.  I think it manifestly obvious the advantages of being able to recruit kids (and trust me, it happens, I think that point is beyond argument) as opposed to simply playing the hand your dealt in terms of student body talent pool.  Again, however, you don’t want to make the formula too strong.  There are certainly seasons where Youngstown Ursuline football can compete with anyone.  The same is not true of, say, Steubenville Catholic Central.

Bottom line is I am not opposed to this proposal.  I suspect, however, that the devil is in the details.


One Response to “OHSAA Considers New Formula for Tournament Divisions”

  1. Kevin Snyder Says:

    >competitive history formula

    I had this same thought as you about the so-called “tradition factor”. I will be very interested to know how many years go into this calculation. I immediately thought of Newark Catholic football. The program is among the most successful in state history, but their best decade for playoff success was the 1980s. I hope the players of 2013 aren’t playing “up” a division simply because the school was a small school superpower before they were born.

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