Bob Huelsman
Bob Huelsman

Bob Huelsman is a former high school teacher, coach and administrator, serving for more than three decades at Covington High School, in Miami County. In his 13 years as head basketball coach at Covington, Huelsman won 228 games and five times guided the Buccaneers to the regional round of the state tournament. Currently, he serves as the associate athletic director at Newton High School, and treasurer for the Southwest District Athletic Board. A former member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Control, Huelsman’s broad background in athletic administration has won the respect of his peers statewide.

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If athletics comprise only 3% of the average school’s budget, why are superintendents in Wayne County the driving force behind passage of the competitive balance issue proposed by the OHSAA?

Years ago, school superintendents, more than likely, came up through the ranks.  Many started out as teachers, coaches, athletic directors, and principals before climbing the ladder all the way to the top. Nowadays, many superintendents are climbing to the top by being more involved with educational issues, school funding, school grade cards, negotiations, levy campaigns, students with disabilities, etc.

On the average, athletics in most schools comprise only about 3% of a school’s total budget.  School superintendents are concentrating on the other 97%, and rightly so.  I ask you, why then are the superintendents in Wayne County the driving force behind the Competitive Balance Issue that we have all heard enough about?  If you haven’t heard, it failed by the vote of 332 to 303—29 votes.

In some districts, the school superintendents couldn’t even find their way to the football field unless they are there to “show face” for public relations.

Within the OHSAA and its handbook containing the Association’s constitution, bylaws, and sports regulations, it is the high school principal that is in charge.  They are the ones that have voting privileges.  “The principal in each member school is the primary enforcement for all matters pertaining to interscholastic athletics…”

So, why are these superintendents at the focal point?  In speaking to a superintendent in Wayne County– who, by the way, is very adamant and passionate about the issue– it is because most of them have come up through the ranks as coaches, athletic directors, and principals, and feel that they are the voice of the school community.  Their community is ”sick of Youngstown Ursuline, Akron St. Vincent -St. Mary , or Youngstown Cardinal Mooney beating them in the football playoffs every year.”

He also made the point that superintendents, many times, can see the “big picture”, whereas someone too close to the scene has tunnel vision.  This superintendent also made the point that the votes should be made public by the OHSAA.  The public should be made aware of how their school voted.  In public schools everything is for public consumption, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see the media asking for the release of the school votes.

Another reason the superintendents from Wayne County jumped out in front on this issue was probably due to Dr. Ross, the OHSAA Commissioner, being a former superintendent. Many of them probably had developed a good working relationship with him, and felt he would listen to their concerns.  Dr. Ross did and developed a committee to study the issue.  You know the rest of the story.

This concern is not going to go away.  In fact, I believe it would have passed if the OHSAA had included a solution in the referendum item that addressed the Division I enrollment disparity.  It probably would have passed if the Tradition Factor was removed.  So where does this leave us?

It leaves us with a number of possible scenarios.  The Competitive Balance Issue is revised and put up for another vote, a petition of schools is circulated and placed on the ballot as a referendum issue to split the public and private tournaments, or the private schools can withdraw from the OHSAA and form their own association.

I have not talked to anyone who wants split tournaments.  I believe that the OHSAA and Dr. Ross can revise the original Competitive Balance Proposal, include the Division I enrollment problem at the same time, and draw up a new referendum item to be voted on by schools.  I hope the Wayne County superintendents work with Dr. Ross to make this happen, and not go off and get a petition together to split!

In cases like this, the superintendents should collaborate with their principals and athletic directors, and make sure the school speaks as one.  Ohio has the best tournaments around.  We need to keep it that way by working together!

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