By Tom Blumer | Special to Ohio Watchdog
The bylaws of the Ohio High School Athletic Association divide the state’s high schools into three classes to determine where they will compete in state tournaments in various sports: A, AA, and AAA. Where a school goes is determined solely by enrollment:
“Boys classification shall be determined by the total number of boys enrolled in grades 9-10-11. Girls classification shall be determined by the total number of girls enrolled in grades 9-10-11.”
Each class contains one-third of Ohio’s high schools. Every year, each sport has a tournament champion in each class.
Many of the state’s public schools, with apparently strong support within the OHSAA, say that the system is unfair. Really.
Why? Because they don’t like the results.
One person who agrees with the whiners is Columbus Dispatch sports reporter Michael Arace, who feels that something must be done about the fact that “private schools make up 17 percent of the association and win anywhere from 45 to 63 percent of the team titles, depending on the sport.”
Rather than suggest that public schools redouble their efforts to excel on the playing field, Arace sides with those who want to punish private schools for their success. Proposals involve bumping private schools into a higher class than their enrollments would otherwise dictate. Incredibly, eight other states already are doing this.
Arace’s description of a “solution” the OHSAA tried but narrowly failed to pass reads like something bureaucrats at Uncle Sam’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission might have worked up:
“The OHSAA wanted to go beyond enrollment in assessing school size. It wanted to use boundaries, tradition and socioeconomic considerations in determining sport-by-sport athletic counts. It proposed that a school could go up in classification depending upon how big a district it draws from, how many regional and state titles it has won over an eight-year period and how many free lunches it provides.”
Let’s translate: Having strong traditions and achieving success would mean that a relatively small school’s future athletes might have to compete against larger schools. Giving out a lot of free school lunches means that a school might get to up against smaller ones.
This is “fair”?
Arace writes that in some states which have, in his words, “aimed at leveling the playing field” (of course, it’s just the opposite), “the formulas do not seem to go far enough.” Those darned private schools are still winning too often. We can’t have that.
Support for separate tournaments for private and public schools is growing. Thursday’s Dispatch reports that ”a group of northeastern Ohio superintendents favoring separate tournaments for public and nonpublic schools” is going to try to force a vote on separate public-private tournaments in May 2013.
Private schools outperform public schools in sports for the same reasons they outperform them academically. Their academic and athletic successes continually embarrass public school officials.
Parents who enroll their children in private schools often make extraordinary financial sacrifices to do so while paying the property taxes that support the public schools. Given that reality, the prospect that sports programs at the Buckeye State’s private schools might find their sports teams segregated from the rest of the state at tournament time simply because they are too successful is beyond outrageous.