Area athletic directors react to OHSAA opting to charge membership fees in the future

Area athletics directors reached by the Dayton Daily News expressed understanding at the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s announcement it will charge membership dues for the first time beginning next school year.

“Education-based athletics is exceptionally important for students,” Trotwood-Madison AD Jonas Smith said. “So anything we can do to help the association, I’m open to doing that. And paying that $50 per sponsored sport that we participate, I’m fine with it.”

The cost will range from $300 for schools that participate in only the minimum six sports to $1,300 for schools that participate in the maximum of 26, though Alter AD Christina Hart pointed out some of that will be offset by no longer having to pay tournament entry fees. For instance, the Knights paid $400 last year in greens fees for its boys and girls teams to compete in the state golf tournament.

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The change was approved by the OHSAA board of directors in a 9-0 vote Monday after discussions with member school administrators in April, and it was not unexpected.

“They had special meetings virtually with all of us going over it and explaining it and suggesting that this was coming, so it wasn’t a surprise,” Hart said.

OHSAA director Doug Ute said in a statement the move was necessary to establish a more sustainable, consistent source of revenue for the organization after it suffered heavy losses over the past year and a half because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We traditionally have relied on tournament ticket sales for about 80 percent of our revenue,” Ute said. “That financial model has not been sustainable, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly not helped. Levying membership dues will give us a steady line of income since many of our other lines are variable, and it will help us build a new, more sustainable revenue model. That model, which will help ensure our long-term sustainability, will be a combination of a wider variety of income streams – including these dues – and continued better management of our expenses.”

In a memo sent to member schools, the OHSAA said its revenue had been trending in the wrong direction since 2014, including net losses in 2018 and ’19.

“I’ll be very honest, this is not really a surprise to me,” said Smith, who is vice president of the Southwest District Athletic Board and previously served on the state board in addition to being an athletics administrator for 25 years. “I could see years ago that this was coming down the pike, so I think the $50 amount per sport is a good start to see how that can help the association. Hopefully they can set some costs and have a continuous revenue stream coming in.”

Greeneview director of athletics Mark Rinehart and his counterpart at Centerville, Rob Dement, also said they understand the decision.

“It is unfortunate because all of us are in the same boat with a lot of lost revenue due to COVID restrictions,” Rinehart said while expressing hope for being able to welcome back fans in full to Rams athletics events this fall.

“The most important thing is that our student athletes will get a chance to compete, play with friends, and make lasting memories,” Rinehart said. “Sports are such a great extension of the school classroom and allow us to teach life learning lessons through these sports.”

Schools sponsored by the OHSAA are baseball; boys basketball; girls basketball; boys bowling; girls bowling; boys cross country; girls cross country; field hockey; football; boys golf; girls golf; gymnastics; ice hockey; boys lacrosse; girls lacrosse; boys soccer; softball; girls soccer; boys swimming & diving; girls swimming & diving; boys tennis; girls tennis; boys track & field; girls track & field; volleyball, and wrestling.

While the tournament entry fees have been eliminated, teams could still face fines as punishment for violating OHSAA bylaws or regulations or for noncompliance with tournament deadlines and requirements.

“At the end of the day I completely understand from a business and income perspective this decision by the OHSAA to begin charging dues as they try to rebound from all of their lost revenue over the past year,” Dement said. “However, all athletic departments across the state are also dealing with revenue losses that have left most scrambling to find the funds to finish the year. We have no choice but to figure out a way to pay the dues so that our kids continue to enjoy participating in the OHSAA and that is what we will do.”

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