Dr. Dan Ross is in the two-minute warning of a long and eventful tenure as commissioner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
That title guarantees being in the cross hairs at some point of players, parents, athletic directors, principals, superintendents and anyone else who has a heightened sense of high school athletics.
It also means you’re a difference-maker at the highest level.
Dr. Ross, who succeeded Clair Muscaro as commissioner in 2004, announced his impending resignation as commissioner in January. A successor will be named this summer and Dr. Ross will officially retire on Sept. 15.
Fully recovered from a near-fatal illness two years ago, he remains on a national list to receive a new heart.
“I’m in as good of shape as you’re going to be waiting for a heart,” he said to Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association members at the OHSAA headquarters in Columbus on Tuesday. “The good Lord saved my life and I think He’s got a plan for what He wants me to do.”
Here’s what Dr. Ross had to say about a variety of subjects to OPSWA members.
• Choosing football playoff sites: “We’ve tried in the last five-six years – because more and more schools get (artificial) turf – to put teams on turf as soon as you can. Not everybody wants to host. Especially the state semifinal weekend, when the Ohio State/Michigan game is on that Saturday.
“Thanksgiving weekend? It’s like pulling teeth to get (schools) to host. The people normally who are working those sites want to be with their family and traveling to see family. We try to find the very best sites and we had at least a half-dozen who just said no (last season).”
• Competitive balance: “The response from most of our schools is they feel very good about the direction we’re going. Is it perfect? No. If there are tweaks that membership brings to the table, we’re going to consider.
“This is a journey. I think most of our schools feel the same way. Now, everybody is modified. Our public and non-public students are treated equal (by competitive balance). I think everybody feels we’re on the right track. We’ll probably never get there, but we’re on the right track.”
• Baseball season extended one week: “The purpose was to help with the pitch count and spread the varsity and JV pitchers out to have more of an opportunity to use them. Then you run into the rain and snow. The things that voted it down was more the peripheral things. You add two weeks, more schools are finishing early, so there’s a longer period of time between when the kids graduate and the end of the season.
“Softball did not want to extend the season. There was a question about summer school and the infringement on basketball coaches. June is their month and July is football.”
• Making OHSAA rules: “We’re not allowed to change the bylaws or the constitution. We have to go back to our schools. They vote on rules and regulations.”
• 50/50 rule, a proposal to reverse the sit-out requirement for transfers to the second half of the regular season and the entire postseason: “Over the last couple years we’ve had a lot of situations where schools are building teams by getting kids to transfer and sitting out 50 percent of the season. Coaches have shared with us they’ll scrimmage and a coach afterward says, you got us now, but those three guys who are sitting over there are going to be on the team for the tournament and when we get there you’re going to see a completely different team.
“We had a coach last year who made the comment after the (state) tournament we’ve done very well and it’s taken two years to build this team through transfers and move-ins. There was not one member of our coaches association who spoke against (the new proposed 50/50 rule). They believe that this will help deter the recruiting phenomenon.
“If you’re not going to play in the tournament are you going to transfer? That’s where our coaches are, especially with how many are doing it their senior year. I’m sure we’ll be in court.”
• Prep academies: “This blew me away. They’re not allowed to take (high school graduates), but they’re encouraging seniors this time of year to drop out and enroll in the academy because you can play there a fifth year. You can play 50-80 games. The crazy part is they don’t tell (transfers) you’re now ineligible for going to a four-year institution after this. You have to go to a junior college. I’m not sure that’s what it’s all about, either.”
• Football state championships: “We’re working to develop a contract with Stark County for 2018. We will not be in Stark County for 2019-20. They’re working on the NFL 100th anniversary and all the activities that are tied with that.”
• Dead period: “There should be a one-week dead period around the 4th of July. You know who would appreciate that the most? The wives of the coaches. I heard from more wives because they can’t schedule vacations.”