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High school sports wish list reveals proposed changes



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Tuesday January 7, 2014 9:37 AM

Let’s be honest: How many of us make new year’s resolutions?

Making a resolution to not make resolutions seems just as popular.

Instead, here’s a wish list of a few things I’d like to see in high school athletics in 2014.

Sure, wish lists are sort of like resolutions, but by nature they can be a bit unrealistic. While these items are meant to be based in realism, debate never hurts.

•A return to statewide prominence in area Division I football: Plain and simple, it’d be nice to have an area team win a Division I state championship in football. Hilliard Davidson did in 2006 and 2009. Davidson was the first team to do so since Upper Arlington won the area’s first big-school title in 2000.

This past season, Hartley was the lone area team to reach a state final, losing to Coldwater 24-7 in the Division V title game. It would be nice to get more representation in any division, but rightly or wrongly, the big-school titles get the most attention and our schools have some work to do — not that the gap is ridiculously wide — to upend Cincinnati and Cleveland.

•Hold some football finals at Crew Stadium: Columbus will become the home of the state championship games — for two years, at least — next season. All seven are scheduled to be played at Ohio Stadium, but a lingering worry is that the configuration of the 102,329-seat facility will swallow up any atmosphere, especially for the smaller divisions whose teams don’t draw as many fans as the larger schools.

A much better fit for the smaller-division games would be Crew Stadium, which holds 20,145 fans. That’s more than enough to give those contests a much more intimate feel, at the risk of depriving those athletes a chance to play in the Horseshoe. The stumbling block here might be artificial turf. Crew Stadium still has natural grass.

Possible solution: Keep the Division I and II games at Ohio Stadium, and rotate the other five between the two facilities, with four in the Horseshoe and three at Crew Stadium annually.

•Double the fun: Only a handful of area schools have seen the benefits of staging boys-girls doubleheaders in applicable sports, such as basketball and soccer. Pickerington Central and North annually schedule in this manner and Reynoldsburg has joined in when it plays them.

Back-to-back varsity games make for a great atmosphere, especially in rivalry situations, but it seems few other schools are taking advantage. Why divide fan bases for, say, games between Dublin, Hilliard and Westerville schools? Attendance for one of the games is going to suffer because the other is the main draw, and fans from one game usually care how the other is going, too.

The OCC long ago overcame its fear of sister schools competing, and that move has come up gold. No reason this one can’t, either.

•When it’s over, it’s over: The case of Nick Browning, a Hamilton Badin baseball player who was ejected for using profanity in a Division III regional final but was allowed to play in a state semifinal prompted a fair amount of discussion in late May and early June.

Browning’s ejection earned him an automatic two-game suspension, but Badin’s coach hastily scheduled two regular-season games against teams whose seasons had long since concluded so Browning could play in the state tournament.

Browning served that suspension, and Badin lost in its semifinal.

Was the coach’s strategy legal under OHSAA rules? Yes. Should that be allowed to happen? No.

When the regular season is over, the chance to play regular-season games should end, other than making up any remaining league games. Teams should be awarded two scrimmages that can be played only as long as they remain alive in the postseason.

•One size doesn’t fit all: A recent story by The Columbus Dispatch highlighted the continuing saga of high school athletes being made to sit out half or more of their respective seasons after transferring for reasons ostensibly not limited to improving their athletic fortunes. Even when transfers were made for reasons not limited to but including bullying, financial hardship and taking care of family, the OHSAA transfer bylaw has been upheld time and again.

According to the OHSAA, exceptions are granted for students who enroll in the school for the deaf or blind; who are self-supporting; are dealing with a change in parental custody; or who have seen their school closed or athletics department dismantled.

Those are all understandable exceptions. But let’s make this the year that when other cases of hardship are proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, extenuating circumstances end up mattering.

And that’s that. Remember, this is just a wish list.

Here’s hoping we ring in 2015 with some requests fulfilled.

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