In a decision that is receiving mixed reaction, the principals of the 31 OCC high schools approved moving the kickoff of Friday night varsity football games from 7:30 to 7 p.m.

The change was approved by a vote of 18-13, according to Lancaster athletics director Pam Bosser, and will take effect in the coming season. The vote was held during the OCC’s regular meeting March 13 at the Medallion Club in Westerville.

Westerville Central principal Todd Spinner said the time change is a smart move logistically.

“We’re absolutely for it,” he said. “In education, if we’re concerned about our students getting home and being safe at a reasonable time, by moving the start time from 7:30 to 7, logic will tell you that the game will end sooner. So not only the students playing in the game but the students watching the game, maybe younger students who normally can’t stay up later, are home earlier.”

Spinner also said the time change will allow players who compete at both the varsity and junior varsity levels to get home earlier in preparation for Saturday morning contests.

Many coaches are against the decision, however. According to Hilliard Davidson’s Brian White, the coaches voted on the time change in the fall and only one voted in favor of recommending the earlier start.

“It’s very discouraging that the OCC coaches were so overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the start times at 7:30 only to have a vote by the principals be the deciding factor,” White said. “I’m sure they have their reasons for doing so, but I highly question whether there is data to back up those reasons.”

White said coaches’ concerns with the time change include the temperature of turf fields at 7 p.m. in the early weeks of the season as opposed to 7:30 p.m. He said that adds more of a risk to the athletes than any benefit of moving the start time.

Busing issues also could arise with the time change, White said.

Dublin Jerome athletics director Ryan Walker said the move should have little bearing on his school.

“A half-hour one way or the other probably doesn’t really impact me all that much,” he said. “It’s probably a bigger deal for the coaches to change their pregame routine. We’ve had games at 7 at (North Canton) Hoover and Logan and we made it work. For my part, we’ll just operate as usual.”

The principals also approved raising ticket prices for all athletic events beginning in the fall. That vote was 23-8, according to Bosser.

Varsity events will increase from $6 for adults and $4 for students and seniors to $7 and $5, respectively.

Junior varsity and freshman events not held in conjunction with varsity events will increase from $4 for adults and $2 for students and seniors to $5 and $3, respectively.

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