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Ohio schools agree to level the playing field, but is it a good fix?
Terry Pluto says the newly-approved competitive balance approach to high school sports is a good compromise and avoids a split in the system

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
A competitive balance referendum passed last week by 88 votes, 411-323. It uses a multiplier formula that decides high school sports divisions based on enrollment.
Courtesy of Amanda Rabinowitz
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In two years, the high school sports landscape will be changing. On the fourth try, high school principals participating in the Ohio High School Athletic Association voted to approve a so-called competitive balance plan.

Right now, public and private high schools compete in the same playoffs in divisions based solely on enrollment numbers. And private schools often win because they can recruit from a much larger area, unencumbered by district borders. Now, a multiplier formula will be applied that makes athletes count as more than one student toward enrollment based on where their parents live, how long they've attended their school system and what sport they play.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says it's a complicated fix, but one that will help even out the competition.

LISTEN: Pluto on competitive balance

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Terry Pluto on Manziel's first pro show and the slumping Indians

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Terry Pluto says the short read on OHSAA changes is that “if you’re like Akron Hoban or  St. Vincent St. Mary’s or or my alma mater, Benedictine, and you’re supposed to play Division III, odds are your’e not going to play in Division III, you’re going to play up a category, in Division II or Division III.”

And private schools won’t be the only ones affected. “The powerhouse public school in Cleveland is Glenville. Glenville has an open enrollment policy which means basically they’re taking kids from all over the city of Cleveland and sometimes from the suburbs. They’ve played Divisioin II in football for years; now they’re going to be playing Division I.”

A good compromise
The rules are complicated enough to make “your eyes roll,” and not everyone likes them, Pluto says. But they’re an improvement.

“You can never make the world fair, but there was something inherently unfair about a school from Brimfield or somewhere out there competing against St. Ignatius, St. Edward’s which “draw kids, from all over the place.”

Avoiding a split
Public schools have “been angry and it’s been going on for quite a while, and there’s been talk for years about separating the public schools from the private schools” altogether in the playoffs.

But Pluto says splitting would have created more problems.

 “I think the private schools would drop out of the Ohio High School Athletic Association. What’s the big deal about that? That’s means they’d make up their own rules. …

“I was very fearful what public schools would do by themselves, but more how the private schools would just go off and some create their own situation. We’ve seen it with some of these prep schools like Oak Hill Academy and Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. They bring in kids from all over the country,” and Pluto noted, “they don’t play for their state titles. They just run all over the country playing ball.”

And he says the new rules, while complicated, recognize something important.

“I’m also glad they noticed that some of these public schools like Glenville or others … are able to take kids from all over the city. They’re a public school operating under private school agenda.”

So, “yeah, it’s complicated and it’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than the alternative."

Here's a look at the referendum.  

Related WKSU Stories

OHSAA votes to try to even the playoffs for public and private schools
Friday, May 16, 2014

"Competitive balance" for school sports up for vote again
Thursday, May 1, 2014

Should Ohio high schools add spring football?
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vote today could finally level public vs. private school sports
Wednesday, May 15, 2013

High school football playoff plot thickens
Friday, November 2, 2012

Ohio High School Athletic Association to vote on proposal to fix imbalance in high school sports
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Court decision clears up confusion over which Northeast Ohio high school football teams take the field in the playoffs
Friday, November 2, 2012

Listener Comments:

St. Eds is a bad example. They are already a division 1 team. They have 700 boys. Yea they can recruit outside the district but it doesn't matter for them. There already In division 1.

Posted by: Ryan (Mansfield,ohio) on May 22, 2014 3:05AM
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