Competitive balance, the decline in attendance at the boys state basketball tournaments and the shortage of officials are all major challenges facing Ohio High School Athletic Association executive director Jerry Snodgrass.
And that’s not even including the most pressing matter — a lawsuit filed by Cincinnati-based Roger Bacon High School and Greater Cincinnati League schools challenging the competitive balance initiative passed last year.
A judge in the Court of Common Pleas in Hamilton County issued a temporary restraining order earlier this month that prohibits the OHSAA from continuing to utilize a component of the competitive balance process that OHSAA member schools voted into place in 2014.
“This is probably the most major lawsuit we have filed against us and we are not always the bad guy,” Snodgrass said. “Now we have a lawsuit filed against us from eight schools that don’t agree with how we divide our divisions but they all signed a card agreeing to do that back in May. That is puzzling to me a little bit.”
The Competitive Balance Plan adds factors to school enrollment figures that are based on the residence of students on rosters of public school teams and the educational history (feeder schools) of students on rosters of non-public school teams.
Enrollment figures are combined with the competitive balance factors to generate a tournament enrollment number for each school before they are assigned to an OHSAA postseason tournament division. The 2018-19 school year will be the second in which the Competitive Balance Plan is scheduled to be utilized.
An appeal was filed by the OHSAA against the restraining order and a decision is expected Aug. 28. Depending on the ruling it could have a significant impact in terms of what regions schools will be playing in and a restructuring of the system that could revert back to the one prior to competitive balance.
Snodgrass said that if the ruling is for the OHSAA it is business as usual or if the courts rule against the OHSAA there would be some “scrambling to do.”
Theoretically, teams could see shifts in divisions. If it reverts back to the old system, football teams could possibly go up or down in one of the seven divisions Other sports could also see movement.
Snodgrass added the majority of schools do not want to move.
“People support or non support for competitive balance or even for this lawsuit could really vary upon where you are at,” Snodgrass said. “When I say we are in limbo, we are in limbo outwardly but our staff right now is working diligently on plan B. Whatever plan B will be.”
Another challenge facing Snodgrass is the decline of attendance at the boys state basketball tournament. He is in the process of looking for different avenues to bolster those numbers.
Declining basketball attendance
“Our sales of tickets are down 93,000 tickets for the 12 games since 2004,” Snodgrass said. “We are not business. We are a non profit and a lot of people don’t realize that. We are not a state run organization but 93,000 tickets over the course since 2004 times 12 to 15 dollars a ticket we charge is a pretty sizable chunk of money that we are now down.”
In order to address this, Snodgrass has had several meetings to see what options are available to the OHSAA and will be making a recommendation in the upcoming weeks on possible changes that includes possibly going to an eight session boys tournament that mirrors how the girls currently do it. In other words it would mean having two games in one session and a person could get one ticket and attend two games.
“I am not saying we are doing it yet but I am in my fourth meeting with the Schottenstein Center going through the feasibility of it and the financial opportunities and things like that,” Snodgrass said. “There is a lot of pluses in it and I guess where I am coming from on this is with our ticket sales going like this (points downward) and I am not a math major but doing nothing is not an option anymore.”
Other ideas Snodgrass said were discussed were change of venue. One idea was to move it to Nationwide Arena but due to suite issues that does not solve the financial problem. Another idea was to play at St. John’s Arena at Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have balked at that idea and another concept was to play the state semis at different venues with the finals in Columbus but because of the tradition of having the final four in Columbus is another factor preventing this from occurring.
Also facing the OHSAA is the lack of officials. Snodgrass said the OHSAA has more than 16,000 licensed officials they oversee. The number may seem like a lot, however, officials who do multiple sports are counted for each sport they do.
“We are really struggling in the officiating world in terms of that,” Snodgrass said. “We did a study and the average age of almost every one of our officials in every sport is over 50.”
Snodgrass added they are also looking outside the box when it comes to recruiting new officials by means of modern technology and other avenues to make it worth the official’s time.