August 25, 2021 -As the OHSAA Board of Directors prepares for its first meeting of the 2021-22 school year, OHSAA.org caught up with Board President Scott Kaufman to get his thoughts on a variety of topics, including being on the Board, priorities for the school year, school membership dues and the football playoff expansion.
Meet the Board of DIrectors: www.ohsaa.org/about/BOD
OHSAA: How has your experience as an Athletic Director helped prepare you to lead the OHSAA Board of Directors?
SK: The experience I have over the course of 29 years of ‘working in the trenches’ of OHSAA event management and being in a school community on a daily basis, I am able to provide insight and support in helping develop policies in running tournaments and working with member schools. We use the phrase ‘unintended consequences’ a lot in decision making processes. I trust that my experiences provide an avenue to help minimize those issues that may arise unexpectedly.
OHSAA: What are a couple things you’ve learned about the OHSAA since being on the Board of Directors?
SK: I learned that the OHSAA has a solid group of men and women who care a great deal about high school sports in Ohio and all work very passionately to achieve the goals that are set for the Association. I’ve also learned that I can’t ‘fix’ everything and we, as a Board, need to let the staff do their job. I fully trust and support Mr. Ute and the staff he has in place around him. I know my role as President, and the role of the Board, is to ensure that he has the tools necessary to be able to fulfill the OHSAA mission, ‘To serve our member schools and enrich interscholastic opportunities for students.’
OHSAA: How do members of the Board of Directors balance their day-to-day responsibilities at their schools along with being on their District Athletic Board and the Board of Directors?
SK: Every Board member already has a full-time job in their respective school district, so none of us are there to do others people’s work. We are here to advise, support, develop policy and oversee the financial outlook of the Association. Our commitment is to ensuring that kids in Ohio get the best possible experience that athletics can provide, so all of us are willing to volunteer our time to make it work for all of Ohio and support the OHSAA staff.
OHSAA: Are there a few top priorities for the Board of Directors for the 2021-22 school year?
SK: 1) Get the new Board members comfortable in their new role at the state level; 2) Ensure the OHSAA continues to provide exceptional tournament experiences for our student-athletes, coaches, officials, schools and fans; and 3) Develop strategies to secure the financial future of the Association.
OHSAA: This is the first time in many years that the OHSAA is charging membership dues. Walk us through that process and why that was needed?
SK: The OHSAA Constitution requires the Board of Directors to establish ‘policy for the efficient operation of the Association.’ As a non-profit organization, financial stability is critical in order to accomplish this requirement. The fact of the matter is that the OHSAA has been in a near financial crisis mode operating in a deficit for the past several years. The Covid-19 pandemic didn’t create our problem, but it certainly exposed the problem to the point where we could no longer kick the can down the road any longer. Prior to this year, the OHSAA budget was too reliant upon gate receipts. Membership dues help lower the dependency on attendance at tournaments, which is so unpredictable with weather and match-ups. Personally, I believe that once we get our financial ‘ducks in a row’ that we will be able to limit dues to a nominal amount and be able to bring back things like pre-sale ticket bonus funds and tournament reimbursements.
OHSAA: How much was the Board of Directors involved in the expansion of the football playoffs and what were the main reasons to expand?
SK: The expansion keeps us in line with the mission of the OHSAA to ‘enrich interscholastic opportunities for students.’ The initial proposal to expand the football playoffs to 12 teams per region came from the coaches association. There was a healthy discussion about the good and bad of 12 vs 16 teams per region. The coaches made a good case for 12, which was ultimately approved by the Board of Directors in early 2020, prior to the pandemic. Once Covid hit, and at the advice of the Governor’s Office, the 2020 football schedule was adjusted in order to complete the season prior to Thanksgiving, when a second spike of cases was expected. The adjustment of the schedule made it possible for every team to experience the playoffs. The feedback from teams making the playoffs for the first time in school history provided an experience that turned out to be so positive for kids. After that experience, the OHSAA staff and the Board of Directors did not feel that it made sense to have four teams in each region get a bye when we can give four more teams in each region an opportunity to experience playoff football. Being a person who advocates for kids, this decision was a no-brainer and aligns with the mission of the OHSAA.
OHSAA: This is your third year on the Board of Directors, so you have been on the Board throughout these challenging times of COVID. Is there a message from the Board related to COVID that you would like to convey to all OHSAA member schools as a new school year gets started?
SK: The past 18 months have been an exhausting time for everyone, both mentally and physically. However, it has also been very rewarding. When Covid first hit, there was so much time put into planning how we could ‘make things work’ for kids in the middle of a global pandemic, while working through shortages of masks, sanitizer, thermometer, gloves, etc., while at the same time trying to convince the Governor’s Office to allow us to play. Keep in mind, this was a time when things like county fairs were creating Covid super-spreaders. Covid guidelines and requirements were changing daily because we knew so little when it hit and we were adjusting as new things learned. We were battling a societal political divide where no matter what you tried to do, 50 percent of the people (and schools) were telling you that you were doing it wrong. We watched data points, we met with medical professionals, we spoke frequently with Lt. Governor Husted and his staff, who were amazing to work with, trying to develop a plan that would let the kids in Ohio play. We were all willing to do whatever it took to give the kids a chance to play. And looking back, I can proudly say we did it. I said several times towards the end of last year how proud we all should be about what was accomplished in Ohio during the 2020-2021 school year. There are not many states that can say they played every season on time, but Ohio did it! Yes, there were sacrifices by everyone to make it happen, but those sacrifices gave kids in Ohio more experiences in the middle of a global pandemic than those in the majority of the country. There were states that didn’t start sports at all until April 2021. I’ll say it again, Ohio got it right and we can say we achieved our mission ‘To serve our member schools and enrich interscholastic opportunities for students.’