Centennial High School basketball coach Roosevelt Osborne says there’s a difference between leveling the playing field and stacking the deck.
"Sometimes you gotta tell your kids: ‘you gotta suck it up. The game’s rough, you might not like the calls – you gotta suck it up’. Sometimes you gotta get out there as a coach, step out on the floor and take that tech, technical foul. ‘Wait a minute; we gotta stop, because fairness is not being played out there’”
Osborne is one of dozens of coaches and supporters calling on the board to take legal action to stop implementation of a plan by the Ohio High School Athletics Association to add Central Ohio charter school students into the official enrollment figures for district schools - figures which are used to determine which divisions the schools teams play in. A law passed last summer said charter school students must be allowed to participate in sports in the public school district where they live. This spring OSHAA took that law a step further. In Columbus, the Association took the 4,000 students enrolled in charter schools within the district, divided that number by the 16 district high schools, and added 121 boys and 131 girls to each public schools enrollment for division classification. The new numbers drastically changed the landscape. In football, all but one city league team moved up at least one division. Almost all boys and girls basketball teams are now in Division 1 for the largest. Osborne says that artificial inflation has very real consequences for his kids.
“If we only have 250 kids, boys – and you’re saying all of a sudden we have 400, 500, and we’re playing against schools with 700, or 800 or a thousand boys, it’s gonna cost them recognition, honors, awards and scholarships that have changed lives.”
Despite a wave of complaints from coaches in Columbus and the other big eight urban districts, OSHHA has refused to budge. In May, Columbus school officials filed two separate appeals of the new classifications. The first challenged including in the calculations 19, 20, and 21-year old students from charter recovery programs – students too old to be eligible for high school sports. The second challenged the description of the districts three lottery-only schools as potential “home schools” for charter students. Despite a hearing with the OSHAA board, both challenges were dismissed without comment.
School board member Michael Cole spoke for several board members.
“Just from the feedback we’ve received, just from the insights we’ve been provided, this seems like this is an onion. It has many layers, and it stinks. To the point of tears.”
The board instructed the district’s lawyer, Larry Braverman, to investigate what possible actions the district could take to challenge the new classifications. Superintendent Dan Good suggested the possibility of bringing in outside council to help with that exploration. But the shot clock is counting down for the 2015-2016 season - the new school year starts in three weeks.