Imagine, if you will, an army of of 700 or so going against an army of 3,000 or more. It wouldn’t be very fair, would it?
But those kind of odds are exactly what many Hillsboro High School athletes have found themselves facing over the last few years since several of the school’s athletic teams have been placed in Division I.
I have heard several parents grumble about it. This year, some of them told me, Hillsboro probably would have had a couple track athletes who could have placed at the state meet in Division II. In Division I, they didn’t even make it to the state. The same argument could have been made for Austin Bagshaw in golf this year.
So, when I received an email this week from Tim Stried, director of information services for the Ohio High School Athletic Association, detailing the breakdown of next season’s football divisions (there are seven and Hillsboro is in Division III) I couldn’t help but ask how the breakdown works with the sports that have three divisions.
I sent Mr. Stried this email: “Thanks for the information.
“Many people in Hillsboro – the largest town in our coverage area – are wondering if the OHSAA has considered realigning divisions for sports like track and field, cross county, soccer and golf. Hillsboro, a town of 6,500 residents with graduating classes under 200 students, has to compete in Division I in those sports against schools with graduating classes many times larger.
“I have been asked about it often, and have no answer other than to say that Hillsboro is right on the dividing line between Div. I and Div. II in those sports.
“Any clarification, or possible plans to look at realignment, that we could pass on to our readers would be well received.”
Mr. Stried responded with this email: “Hi Jeff – thanks for asking. The Ohio Department of Education gives the OHSAA new enrollment data every other year, and that’s how we come up with the divisional alignments. In a sport like track, which you mentioned, the schools are simply divided into three equal groups. That’s pretty much the way it works for every sport except football (which has the largest 72 schools put into Division I, and then all the other schools are divided evenly into the other six divisions).
“You’re right that many of the smallest schools in Division I are going to feel like they are at a disadvantage because they are quite a bit smaller than the largest schools in Division I. The state’s largest schools are just so big compared to most of Ohio’s schools. A few of those huge schools make many of the smaller Division I schools feel really small, but there are only a few of those and it kind of skews the data.
“Not sure if that answers your question, but let me know.”
I did not respond, but my answer would be yes and no.
I understand splitting the schools into three equal divisions, each with the same number of schools. That seems pretty fair.
But doesn’t that mean there’s a whole lot more athletes in Division I than Division II and Division III? Is that fair?
I know the folks at the OHSAA know much more about the nuances of high school athletics than your’s truly. I know there has to be a cutoff point somewhere and that regardless of where that point is, there’s always going to be schools in any given division that are smaller than most of the other schools.
But it still doesn’t seem right that Hillsboro should be competing against the Fairfield’s, Hamilton’s and Lakota East’s – those are the three biggest schools as far as football divisions next year – of the world.
By the way, the OHSAA’s count of male students enrolled in grades 10-12 last year show those schools had 1,147, 1,028 and 1,016, respectively. Hillsboro had 300. And that’s just boys.
How about divisions split equally according to the number of total students in each division? That seems more fair to me.
Of course, there are other things to consider.
An argument could be made that all Ohio athletes should compete in one single division, but that’s never been the case since the state first implemented a high school athletic program. And, I believe one of the OHSSA’s missions is to recognize as many outstanding athletes as possible, and I like that.
Hillsboro could also stop accepting open enrollment students. Since it is co close to the cutoff line, eliminating those students would probably drop Hillsboro back to Division II. But then the school would lose state dollars, so that’s probably not an option either.
Like I said earlier, no matter how the divisions are split, some schools are always going to be among the smallest in their respective division.
Should the OHSAA look into splitting the schools into divisions based on the number of students in each division, rather than the number of schools? I think so. But the OHSAA has been working pretty well for a long time, and sometimes you have to do your best with the cards you’re dealt.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.