By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
COLUMBUS — Football’s postseason in Ohio is about to get a lot bigger.
Wednesday night, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced that its Board of Directors voted unanimously at its May meeting to expand the OHSAA football playoffs beginning in the 2021 season, allowing 12 teams from each region into the postseason instead of the current number of eight per region.
After reading a proposal from the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, the board voted 9-0. Following the expansion, 336 teams will qualify for the playoffs across the seven football divisions instead of 224. Last year, 709 Ohio schools played 11-man football, with it being the lone OHSAA sport in which not every team qualifies for the postseason.
“We still have details to work out regarding the format and specific season dates, but this vote by the Board gives us the green light to finalize those details for 2021,” said Beau Rugg, Senior Director of Officiating and Sport Management for the OHSAA and the association’s football administrator. “We are thankful for the Board’s support on this proposal, which will bring all the great things of playoff football to 112 additional schools and communities.”
Schools will still be permitted to play a 10-game regular season, and the football finals in 2021 are expected to end the same weekend as previously scheduled, from Dec. 2-5.
In the opening round, the top four seeds in each region will have a bye. The No. 12 seed will travel to the No. 5 seed, No. 11 will play at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7 and No. 9 at No. 8. In the second round, the top seed will play the winner between No. 8 and 9, the No. 2 seed will play the winner between No. 6 and 11, No. 3 will play the winner between No. 7 and 10 and No. 4 will play the winner between No. 5 and 12.
The higher-seeded team will also host playoff games during the first two rounds, with games moving to neutral sites in the regional semifinal rounds.
“I can see both sides of this,” Troy football coach Dan Gress said. “On one side, it’s great and awesome that there will be more chances for kids to experience the playoffs. But on the other side, it takes away from it being special because you have to earn your way into the playoffs”
“I think it’s a good thing, and I think it’s a good move to reward teams with higher rankings with a bye week,” Piqua coach Bill Nees said.
The OHSAA football playoffs began in 1972, with only 12 schools qualifying — four from each of the three classes. In 1980, the OHSAA expanded to five divisions with eight qualifiers each, and a sixth division was added in 1994. In 1999, the number of qualifiers increased to eight schools per region, and in 2013 a seventh division was added to make the current number of qualifiers 224.
Under the current rules, Miami County’s schools have all qualified for the playoffs at least once since 2010. Troy has made six trips to the playoffs in that time, Covington qualified nine of those 10 years, Tippecanoe and Miami East have made seven apiece, Milton-Union has qualified five times, Troy Christian has twice and Piqua, Bethel and Bradford have all qualified once.
In that same amount of time, the new rules would have added 12 more trips to the playoffs for the county’s teams, with Piqua being the biggest beneficiary with six more trips. The Indians finished 12th in their region in 2010 (5-5), 2011 (6-4) and 2014 (5-5), and they finished ninth in their region in 2016 (7-3), 2018 (6-4) and 2019 (5-5). Piqua’s one trip to the playoffs in the last 10 years came in 2015.
“You’re talking to a guy who has had teams finish ninth three of the last four years. I’m definitely in favor of it,” Nees said. “We haven’t been to the playoffs since 2015. And we thought we had some good football teams that just weren’t able to get in by the slimmest of margins.”
Troy Christian and Bethel both would have made two extra trips. The Eagles were 10th in 2015 (5-4) and ninth in 2018 (8-2), and the Bees were ninth in 2016 (7-3) and 12th in 2018 (6-4). Tippecanoe finished 12th in 2018 (5-5), and Bradford finished 11th in 2015 (4-6).
“Both sides have valid arguments — but at the end of the day, you’re still going to have to win some football games,” Gress said. “That’s not changing.”
Contact Josh Brown at email@example.com.
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