As president of the Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association, Craig Erford has overseen an uptick in the growth of the sport. He’s also maintained Alter’s program at the highest level, winning multiple state club championships.
But the biggest hit Erford hopes to embrace is this June. That’s when the Ohio High School Athletic Association could consider elevating boys volleyball to “emerging sport” status.
That’s not a done deal yet, but it’s next on the boys volleyball wish list to be included among the OHSAA’s many other recognized sports.
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“I’m more wishful than anything,” said Erford, who has led Alter to six OHSBVA Division II state championships since 2011. “We’re not guaranteed that’s when it’s going to happen but it’s possible. We’re praying it would happen after our state championship. That would be an optimum time for us.”
Emerging sport status is the OHSAA’s way to recognize new sports among its 800-plus school membership. Just like traditional high school sports such as football (fall), basketball (winter) and baseball (spring), emerging sports are granted a postseason and season-ending state championships that are sactioned by the OHSAA.
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Last fall boys and girls lacrosse and team dual wrestling were granted continuing emerging sport status by the OHSAA. Prior to that boys and girls bowling underwent similar status starting in 2006-07.
Volleyball was among the first girls sports to be recognized by Ohio and had its first OHSAA state championship in 1975 (Wayne was a Class AAA final four participant). Girls have traditionally played volleyball in the fall. Boys volleyball – club status – had its first OHSBVA state championship in 1988 and is anchored in the spring.
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Just like the girls, the boys play in high school gymnasiums and field teams of 10-14 players. The boys OHSBVA state championships will be held June 2-3 at Capital University in Columbus. Last season Cincinnati Moeller won a D-I state title and Columbus St. Charles defeated Alter in the D-II state championship. That snapped the Knights’ streak of four straight D-II state titles.
Emerging sports must adhere to OHSAA rules and regulations, and must be financially feasible for it to staff and manage a postseason. “They want to make certain they’re not taking on a sport that’s losing money for them,” said Erford.
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Another main factor is a minimum of 150 participating schools. As of now, Ohio has 84 schools that offer boys volleyball, but that’s 22 more than when Erford began coaching the sport. He said besides Ohio’s half-dozen large metropolitan areas (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo and Akron) that have the population to field many sports, the bulk of the state’s high schools are from rural areas that do not.
“I’ve been hearing across the state from (athletic directors) an issue is a lot of them won’t adopt a sport until it’s sanctioned,” Erford said. “It’s so hard to go through their (school) boards if it’s not recognized by the (OHSAA). It becomes a catch-22 in that (OHSAA sanctioning) needs to happen, first.”
Approximately 784 girls teams made up four divisions last season.
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Current Division I area boys volleyball teams are Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairmont, Miamisburg, Northmont and Wayne. Division II area teams are Alter, Carroll, Chaminade Julienne and Fenwick.
The OHSAA Expanding Opportunities Committee has already recommended to new OHSAA Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass to present boys volleyball to the OHSAA Board of Directors at a June 4 meeting in Columbus. If that happens, the board would vote on sanctioning the sport or not.
Snodgrass and girls volleyball administrator Emily Gates continue to address boys volleyball “finances, technology, officiating, structure and other items,” said OHSAA director of communications Tim Stried in a statement.
“There is no specific timetable for the next steps of this process as the OHSAA continues to examine boys volleyball.”
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