“They don’t have to answer to us, they don’t listen to us, and when we do try to do something, there’s retribution,” state Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said.
Both House Bill 311, and now, Senate Bill 181 would prohibit price gouging for cash-pay tickets to OHSAA events. The organization offers a cash option for tickets now as part of a new law that passed in the state budget in June. Tickets at the gate were $15, compared to $9 for student tickets and $12 for adults if purchased online before the event.
On Tuesday night, the OHSAA responded with discounted ticket prices. Beginning Friday, all OHSAA postseason football ticket prices will cost $12 for adults and $9 for students. For the state semifinals and finals the price will increase to $16 and $13, respectively. Both prices are in effect for online sales as well as at the stadiums.
Prior to that, Edwards believed the hiked ticket prices were retribution for requiring the cash-pay option requirement.
“It shows how far they are from the intent of the legislation, how far they are away from the state of Ohio,” Edwards said.
In a statement, OHSAA said that is not the case.
“The higher cash price for tickets at the gate was due to increased security costs, increased reconciliation costs, increased auditing costs at the OHSAA, and the desire to avoid needing $1 bills in the cash change box,” the statement reads.
OHSAA added, “We are still working through the process for an adjustment this week regarding the cash ticket price at the gate for our remaining fall tournament contests.” A spokesperson said more details would be released on Tuesday.
But Edwards said this was just one in a series of bad decisions, so he is considering taking things a step further.
“Maybe we’re getting to a point where we don’t need the OHSAA,” he said. “We’re getting to a point where there has been such idiotic decision-making that is taking place at the Ohio High School Athletic Association that the state can sanction high school sports.”
A spokesperson for the organization said, “We welcome opportunities to discuss this [the state sanctioning sports rather than OHSAA doing so] with lawmakers.”
OHSAA said it “met with staff of the representatives last week,” regarding the new legislation, but Edwards said that right now, the state legislature has no relationship with the association.
“They’re their own body, get to do their own thing,” he said. “In some ways, that might be a good thing; in this instance, I think it’s a very bad thing.”
He said if it were a state agency that works directly with state government sanctioning high school sports, things might run more smoothly.
“We can have more common sense in some of the decision-making,” Edwards said. “And they can listen a little more to the legislature since it appears that the OHSAA doesn’t want to do that.”
Edwards said he sees why a state agency overseeing high school sports may trouble some people, but said what is going on now is more troubling.
“I think if you left it up to the state lawmakers, I don’t think you’d be seeing $15 football tickets to get into games,” he said. “They [the OHSAA] don’t think they need to answer to the legislature, which is just silly.”
Edwards said he also wants to talk money with the association.
“We hope the Ohio High School Athletic Association will come in and sit in front of the finance committee or another committee and open its books and tell us what’s going on,” he said.
OHSAA confirmed it has $19 million in its investment accounts.
“When COVID hit, the OHSAA had one-month savings in reserve and we came close to further cuts and eliminating sports,” the organization said in a statement. “We now have almost 10 months in reserve, which is industry standard.”
A spokesperson said the group is willing to talk about its financial standings.
Edwards questions why it would need to hike ticket prices, having so much money in their accounts. Edwards said HB 311 might become broader to address more issues.
“I would love if we would stay as far away from them as we possibly can,” he said. “However, some of their terrible decision-making has led them to wanting to get involved with them more often.”