COLUMBUS — Saturday’s Division IV basketball state championship game matched Leipsic, a public school with 85 boys in the upper three grades from a village of about 2,100 people, and Villa Angela-St. Joseph, a parochial school with 105 boys drawn from throughout Cleveland, an urban zone with a population of nearly 400,000.
It is as prime an example as there is of why Ohio High School Athletic Association members were about to vote on separate tournaments for public and non-public schools in all sports. And I guarantee you it would have passed.
It will not pass now because it is off the ballot. The OHSAA announced this past weekend that it will be replaced by a “competitive balance” proposal that would place additions to a school’s enrollment count based on how many athletes in a sport come from outside a school’s designated attendance zone.
Without getting bogged down in the minutia, we’ll use football and Toledo’s Central Catholic High School as an example of how it might work. Because of its location, Central’s attendance zone would be designated as the Scott High School district.
If the Irish have, say, 140 football players in grades 9-12 and 100 of them come from zones outside the Scott district, that 100 would be multiplied by two and 200 fictional male students would be added to Central’s census. It would likely be enough to boost Central football, the Division II champion this school year, to Division I status.
The multiplier would be higher in other sports. The proposal is for a multiplier of five to be applied in volleyball, baseball, softball, and both genders of basketball.
You can imagine how this would affect Villa Angela-St. Joseph, a merged school whose male side, Cleveland St. Joe, has long been a state athletic power.
The Vikings were Division I state basketball champs as recently as 1991 and captured D-II titles in 1992, ’94, and ’95. They were in the Division III semifinals in both 1997 and 2006, and now are Division IV champs. This illustrates a long and deep slide in enrollment, a trend numerous parochial schools have faced, but VASJ still entices top athletes from throughout Cleveland and from its depressed public school system.
The result this past weekend was a gutsy effort from Leipsic’s kids, who nonetheless suffered a predictable 87-63 defeat.
Coach Scott Maag was too classy to mention it in his post-game news conference, but the Leipsics of the state are tired of beating their heads against this wall. It was speculated that if the proposed multiplier had been in effect, VASJ would have been competing in D-II, not D-IV.
Interestingly, VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak’s opening comment, perhaps offered pre-emptively, was that his school/team “did not choose” to be Division IV.
If the multiplier proposal is approved by OHSAA membership, he won’t have to apologize starting with the 2015-16 school year. Does it target private schools? Sure. But it also would affect public schools from districts like Toledo that allow open enrollment whereby kids coming out of junior high can opt to attend a high school other than the one in their “home” neighborhood.
The vote should be overwhelmingly positive. It saves the state championship structure pitting all member schools, but removes the unfairness that has led to many public schools, often from small communities, being handed a runner-up trophy.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.