Football: OHSAA announces playoff expansion

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
OHSAA logo

At its board of directors meeting April 22, the OHSAA approved an increase in the number of playoff qualifiers per region from eight to 16 beginning in the 2021 season.

The decision increases the number of playoff rounds from five to six and increases the number of playoff teams from 224 to 448.

In addition, the higher-seeded team will be the home team for first- and second-round games instead of only the opening round. The remaining rounds will be held at neutral sites. 

Each bracket will be set up with the No. 16 seed playing at the No. 1 seed, and so on. 

With 28 regions spread over seven divisions, football remains the only prep sport in which every team does not automatically qualify for the postseason. 

After the top eight in each region had qualified for the playoffs from 1999 through 2019, each team was eligible to compete in the 2020 playoffs after the regular season was cut to six games. In Division I from 2013-15, there were only two regions instead of four and the top 16 teams in each region advanced to the postseason.

“Last fall we received overwhelmingly positive feedback when we allowed every team to enter the football playoffs due to the shortened season because of COVID-19,” OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said. “We know there are some who want to keep the football postseason to a smaller number of schools, but the postseason tournament gives such a positive experience for our student-athletes, the schools and their communities that we felt strongly about giving that opportunity to more schools to make the playoffs.” 

The OHSAA also said it is “exploring adding a strength of schedule component” to the Harbin computer ratings that are used to determine playoff qualifiers, but the earliest that would take place is 2022. 

The site of the 2021 state championship games has not been determined, but there will be one game Thursday, Dec. 2, and two on each of the next three days. 

The opening Friday of the 2021 season is Aug. 20. First-round playoff games will be held Oct. 29 and 30. 

The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association board of directors released a statement on Twitter later April 22, expressing its disappointment with the OHSAA’s playoff expansion decision.

“The decision by the OHSAA to expand to a 16-team playoff format is met with complete dismay by the OHSFCA,” the statement said. “The OHSAA failed to work in good faith with our association. The OHSFCA worked for over two years to create a viable expansion of the playoff system. The OHSFCA proposed the playoff expansion to 12 teams (per region) in January of 2020. The OHSAA approved this expansion in the spring of 2020 for the 2021 season. We are extremely disappointed in (the April 22) vote by the OHSAA without consulting the OHSFCA. It is abundantly clear that this decision is financially motivated.

“The OHSFCA remains committed to working with the OHSAA and anyone else who is committed to maintaining the high standards of Ohio high school football.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek