(2-4-19)  The OHSAA needs to act on who member schools are allowed to play in the future.  Presently schools can play any school that is not a member of the association or a part of any other US state athletic association. This includes many ‘prep schools’.

Two major concerns came up since this school year started that non-members created, with one having an impact on several member schools.

The first incident happened during this past football season when COF Academy, who had already played several member schools, caused quite a stir before and during the season. Since The OHSAA does not prohibit a member school from playing a non-member school, which COF Academy was and had never applied for a OHSAA membership, even though they implied that they were in the process.

This is what the OHSAA ruled:

OHSAA Football Administrator Beau Rugg:

We received information that made us question whether COF was a school (as opposed to a non-interscholastic team). We made the decision not to recognize them as a school after trying to reach them with no response.

The above decision came after the season had already started and COF Academy had already competed against several Ohio schools…it turned out to be an in-season disaster. The member schools who had wins against COF thinking they would be awarded computer points….were wrong!

How the issue even got to this point during the season is still  a mystery, one that could been prevented.

The next incident took place during the basketball season.

LaMelo Ball, who is a California native, plays for SPIRE Academy in Geneva (Oh) , even though SPIRE is not a member of the OHSAA and Ball played with a pro team last season… SPIRE and Ball are both allowed to compete against any OHSAA member school.  The majority of state associations would not have allowed their members to play SPIRE.

From earlier in the year this email statement to SSN about SPIRE–

OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass:

Spire is a non-member and since there are no “points” given on any rating/playoff system, there is essentially no jurisdiction over them at all. Since Ohio is one of a few states that does not restrict who its members play, any agreement to play them is a contract executed between the two and if a school elected to void a contract with them, they would be subject to the consequences spelled out between the two.

With this current non-OHSAA/State Association rule in place this allows any OHSAA player to transfer and play at SPIRE (or any other school) and immediately be eligible, including games with any OHSAA member schools who would schedule them. Pandora’s Box in Ohio is open for this to happen more frequently thanks to this ruling. The fast changing world of high school sports scene continues to change, will the OHSAA adapt?

The ‘rub’ comes from the OHSAA transfer rules in place for member schools.  If a student-athlete transfers to another OHSAA member school and does not meet one of the 11 exceptions, allowed by the state for transfers, they are ineligible for the last 50% of the season and all of the post-season. But if COF Academy, Lamelo Ball and SPIRE wanted to play an entire OHSAA schedule they could do that with the current ruling.

The OHSAA needs to place in the bylaws that any OHSAA member school may not play or compete against a school…unless that school is an association member or a member of  a NFHS recognized State Athletic Association.  This is about as ‘black and white’ of a bylaw that you can have and that would stop situations like the two mentioned above.

Illinois High School Association Executive Director Craig Anderson in an email reply to SSN tells how they look at this situation on playing non-State Association schools…

“The integrity of education-based athletics at the high school level is built on the foundation that participants are fulfilling their obligations as student-athletes. State Associations help fill that role by providing a governance structure to maintain standards regarding academics and eligibility. While the actual rules in each individual state will vary, it has been a long-standing tenant of the IHSA that our high schools compete against high schools who agree to operate under similar oversight as our IHSA member schools do here in Illinois.”

According to Snodgrass’ statement above –

Since Ohio is one of a few states that does not restrict who its members play

It might be time for the OHSAA to get on board with other states like Illinois.