COLUMBUS – The Ohio High School Athletic Association state championship games will likely be back at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton in 2018 but may return to Columbus for a two-year period in 2019.
OHSAA Executive Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross said on Tuesday the association is working on a contract to play this year’s state title games in Canton. The games returned to Stark County last year after being played at Ohio Stadium in Columbus from 2014-2016.
“We’re hoping sometime relatively soon that the contract will be in place,” Ross said. “That’s the direction we’re going in for this coming school year.”
Stark County hosted the state football championships from 1990-2013, many of which were at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium. Fawcett Stadium was demolished in 2014, and Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was built in its place. The stadium is adjacent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The games were moved to Ohio State’s campus for three years while the new stadium in Canton was constructed. Ross said the OHSAA state championships could return to Columbus in 2019 and 2020 because the Hall of Fame’s stadium will be unavailable.
“They’re working on the NFL 100-year anniversary and all the activities that will be with that,” Ross said. “There are other possibilities of where (the state championships) will be then.”
Some fans expressed disappointment with last year’s state championships at the Hall of Fame Stadium, particularly with parking. Some parking lots previously available at Fawcett Stadium have been removed, and many were forced to take shuttles from Stark County Fairgrounds.
Ross, who is set to retire in September, addressed multiple topics in a conference of Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association members on Tuesday.
Ross, a Portsmouth native, has guided the OHSAA since 2004. He has been dealing with health issues for several years, including a heart attack in 2015. He said on Tuesday he’s in good health.
No shot clock expected soon
Despite a report that gained traction on social media earlier this week, the National Federation of State High School Associations is not expected to approve implantation of shot clock use for basketball games anytime soon. Ross said he hadn’t seen any such proposal among those the NFHS is currently considering.
Ross said he was a member of the NFHS’s basketball rules committee for the last four years and voted against an initiative to have a shot clock implemented, along with a move from quarters to 18-minute halves.
“My concern with that was the shot clock piece was designed to help kids go play in college,” Ross said. “96.4 percent of our kids aren’t – the last time they ever put their jersey on for their (high) school is probably going to be the last time they’ll compete.”
Ross said while he was on the committee, a large study was done and data was compiled from high school basketball games nationwide. He said the average time from taking the ball inbounds to shooting was 23.9 seconds.
“If you make a shot clock, what will it be? 35 seconds? You may already have had a shot and a half,” Ross said. “When you look at the data, it doesn’t make any sense. Let’s let our kids be kids. I don’t want them racing to get to college, because most of them aren’t going to play (there).”
Ross said most school administrators he’s spoken with feel “very, very good” about the direction the OHSAA is moving with its new competitive balance rules.
The competitive balance rules were put in place for the first time for the 2017-2018 school year and are aimed at preventing teams from dominating year-in and year-out in state tournaments – particularly private schools that draw from larger geographical areas than public school districts.
The OHSAA previously placed teams in divisions based solely on enrollment. The competitive balance rules include factors such as how far away students live from the schools they attend and whether they’ve previously attended another school.
“Is it perfect? No, it’s not,” Ross said. “But when the schools passed it, one of things our board made a commitment to was if there are tweaks (the schools) would like us to consider, we’d consider.”
Among new competitive balance rules that are being considered is one that would allow schools to be moved up by more than one division.
New transfer rule proposal
A new rule change on eligibility of transfer students will be voted on by OHSAA membership next month, and Ross said he expects it to pass.
Transfer students are not allowed to play during the first half of the first season after they switch schools but can play in the second half and in any postseason games. The proposal up for voting would permit transfer students to play in the first half of the first season after they switch but would not allow them to play in the second half or in the postseason.
Ross said no heads of the state coaches associations voiced opposition to the rule change.
Baseball season extended
The OHSAA Board of Directors approved earlier this month to extend the high school baseball season by one week. Ross said the move was done to help teams deal with pitch count restrictions, which were put in place by the OHSAA last year.
The extended baseball season will debut in 2019. Ross said he thinks the weather this spring – which has forced schools across the state to postpone or cancel more games than usual – helped gather support for the change.
Positive feedback on running basketball clock
Ross said he received positive feedback from the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association in a meeting earlier this month on the new running clock rule for tournament games.
The OHSAA installed a new rule for postseason play this year. A running clock is used in the second half of games where a point differential reaches 35.
Ross said he made a list last year of all scores with a point differential of 50 or more. It stretched three pages with single spacing.
He did the same this year, and indicated a similar list was reduced to about five inches.
He said there are no plans by the OHSAA nor any proposal from the basketball coaches association to use a similar rule in regular season.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818 or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.