So close, yet, still, so far away.
That's how the folks at the Ohio High School Athletic Association must have felt late last week when the results of referendum voting was tabulated Thursday morning.
The progress toward 'Competitive Balance' is one that's certainly on the move, but it's still lacking in certain areas to gain passage. But, what are those areas?
"This is an issue that people are passionate about," said OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Daniel Ross during a teleconference last week. "We knew this vote would be close and it was. This was the closest vote yet."
Thursday's announcement that the measure was voted down by OHSAA membership is the third consecutive year that Ohio high schools have said no and elected to maintain the current format.
"I had a good feeling about this and it came down to the wire," Ross said. "I'm not totally surprised and I'm a little disappointed because I was hoping it would pass. This is just part of the journey we're on. These are monstrous changes and we have to patient with it."
Competitive Balance, which would have taken the number of kids on a team who weren't from within that school's district and multiplied by a sports sensitive figure and that would have been utilized to determine the school's athletic count used for divisional placement within the team sports, went down by a slim 327-308 count.
"We're going to survey our members' principals, especially since it's so close," Ross said. "We're going to take a long look at the results and decide where to tweak and what to work on and try to make reccomendations and see where it goes."
Though this new method of coming up with the athletic count was much less complex than the original method, which included a tradition and socioeconomic factor as well as open enrollment abilities, it might have been laid on the schools too much, too fast. Plus, there's been major issues with the enrollment numbers the OHSAA released last month, which could have caused some schools to question their vote because they don't know what exactly their numbers are.
"We're very, very close," Ross said. "It's tough to judge intent, but we heard from some schools that they'd love more time to work through this. We also heard comments like, 'we're not sure it's going to pass, but it's a step in the right direction.'"
While Ross is stressing patience, that seems to be running thin with some. And those who it's wearing the thinnest with are the guys who are pressing the issue.
From what those administrators have told media outlets around Ohio, the window to avoid a vote for full separation has closed. Schools had better start thinking about that because that vote seems to be officially on the way.
"I'm not sure where that's going to go, but it's still on the table," Ross said. "The administrators in Wayne County were very gracious and they were also very open that a new piece of refernedum would be in our office."
Wooster Triway Superintendent Dave Rice, who spearheaded the movement, pointed out in an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the OHSAA went on its own and added a seventh division for football next season, so it could actually do the same for competitive balance.
Ross and the OHSAA Board of Directors just feels the issue is much too important to make that decision without allowing the schools to have a say. We agree with that fully, by the way, because it has a negative impact on some. The addition of the seventh football division was totally beneficial.
The new format for competitive balance was added to the list of referndums late because it wasn't until the boys basketball tournament when a group of administrators from Wayne County decided to remove their referendum of full separation of public and non public schools from the vote.
The biggest concern the OHSAA should have isn't necessarily the results. It knows often times elections don't turn out the way you hope. The real issue is with the 191 schools who didn't vote. Or how about the 27 schools that voted, but their ballots didn't make the deadline. Or how about this one? How about the four schools, whose ballots were voided because they voted both yes and no on the issue.
"There's never been a push to make (voting) mandatory, but if there's anyone who doesn't vote, it's too many," Ross said. "It's really disappointing because it's such an important issue, but I guess for some it didn't make the top of their (to-do) lists."
Unfortunately, the OHSAA doesn't release the lists of schools that opt not to return ballots.
"We've had a higher number of voting the last three times, but I'm not sure what more we can do," Ross said. "We encourage and remind them, but without a vote to make it mandatory, there's really nothing we can do."
Staskey can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at TLSportsSeth