High School Football: Division I playoff format moves to four regions

The tournament format for the Division I state football playoffs will move from two regions to four regions this fall.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors unanimously approved the move Thursday.

The proposal — a joint venture between the OHSAA staff and Ohio High School Football Coaches Association — does not change the number of playoff qualifiers (32) in Division I. Each of the four regions will have eight qualifiers.

When the OHSAA expanded the football playoffs to seven divisions in 2013, Division I was split into two regions instead of four in other divisions.

All seven divisions will now have the same playoff format.

“Changing Division I to four regions is a great decision for many reasons,” Beau Rugg, OHSAA Assistant Commissioner and the state’s football administrator, said. “First and foremost, it cuts down significantly on travel, especially in the first round. It also allows Division I to go back to having a true regional championship game in the third round, followed by the state semifinals.”

For the last three years, the Division I regional final has also served as a state semifinal game.

“Back in 2013, we had initially talked about having four regions for Division I, but at that time we thought that since there was a smaller number of teams in Division I, that might lend itself better to having just two regions,” Rugg said. “But with only two regions the last three years, the increased travel and lack of emphasis on the regional championship game wasn’t always well received.”

Each of the four D-I regions will have 18 schools. Because only 22 of Ohio’s 88 counties has D-I programs, the OHSAA had to split three counties — Montgomery, Cuyahoga and Franklin. That created a few wrinkles. For example, longtime Greater Western Ohio Conference rivals Wayne (Region 3) and Centerville (Region 4) will be in different regions.