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OHSAA considers division expansion in multiple sports

OHSAA considers division expansion in multiple sports


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor


The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced on Wednesday that it is studying tournament-division expansion for volleyball, boys soccer, girls soccer, boys basketball, girls basketball, softball and baseball.

The OHSAA is expected to hold multiple statewide meetings in January to present data on the idea, while also collecting feedback.

One of the primary discussion points will be the wide enrollment differences from top to bottom of the divisional structure that is currently in place.

In a press release from the OHSAA on Wednesday, it said that future “changes could mirror the current football model, which puts a smaller number of the state’s largest schools in Division I.”

The proposal does not include any changes to the number of tournament games being played and is anticipated to be a revenue-neutral expansion.

The OHSAA’s Board of Directors could vote on the proposal as soon as early 2024.

“Almost since day one when I became executive director, many administrators and coaches have expressed interest in expanding tournament divisions in several of our sports,” OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute said.

Ute assumed his leadership role in September 2020.

“As everyone knows, we have seven tournament divisions in the sport of football, so why not give student-athletes, schools and their communities the same, or at least comparable, opportunities to compete for a state championship in some of our other sports.

“The Board of Directors has been very supportive when discussing this, and I have been pleased that we seem to be on the same page and could possibly have a proposal in front of the Board in the very near future,” Ute said.

While football has seven divisions, the sports to be discussed for tournament-division expansion, have four divisions (volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball) and three divisions (soccer).

This creates, in some divisions, more than 200 schools entering the postseason tournament to compete for one state championship.

Currently in the sports of baseball, basketball, soccer, softball and girls volleyball, the enrollment difference from the top to the bottom of schools in Division I is an average of 939 students, with highs of 955 in boys soccer (an enrollment range of 346 to 1,301); 954 in boys basketball (346 to 1,300); 944 in baseball (356 to 1,300) and 940 in girls volleyball (319 to 1,249).

The OHSAA has studied the number of tournament divisions and formats in other states and has found that several states, including many that have fewer schools, have more tournament divisions than Ohio. Other than football, the OHSAA has not expanded divisions in team sports since the 1980s.

Ute also said that as many schools throughout the state have lost enrollment, the trend has been for those schools to leave their conferences or leagues and join ones that more closely resemble them from an enrollment standpoint. Placing schools into tournament divisions with those that have similar enrollments is one of the key elements that would be addressed by expansion.

“Our No. 1 goal is to do what’s best for the student-athletes,” Ute said. “We believe our member schools and their participants would support this. From a financial standpoint, we would not be playing more contests overall, we simply would be putting the same number of teams into more divisions. So, our initial thought is this would not have an impact on the OHSAA financially one way or the other.”

School administrators will be sent information on the statewide meetings in January, and the OHSAA will also continue to collect input from the various state coaches associations.

Any proposed changes in the number of tournament divisions would need to be approved by the OHSAA Board of Directors, as those guidelines are part of the OHSAA General Sports Regulations, not the OHSAA Constitution or Bylaws. Any changes to the OHSAA Constitution or Bylaws would require a vote of the membership.

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