High school football: More changes coming to state playoffs

The OHSAA football playoffs are expanding again.

The organization that governs scholastic athletics in Ohio announced Thursday its board of directors approved a proposal to increase the number of teams that make the playoffs in each region to 16.

That is double the number that made it in 2019, the last “normal” season prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changes were already in store, but they have been overhauled before being implemented.

While eight teams per region have made the playoffs since 1999, that number was set to increase to 12 this fall in a move first announced last spring.

In the prior plan, the top four teams in each region would have gotten byes in the first round.

The new plan that will be implemented calls for everyone to be in action in the first week of the playoffs with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 16, No. 2 hosting No. 15 and so on.

The higher-seeded teams will also host in round two before neutral sites are used in the later rounds.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The OHSAA football playoffs began with 12 teams in 1972 when four squads made it in each of the three classes.

The first expansion happened in 1980 when eight teams made it in each of the five divisions (40 teams total).

Since 1999, eight teams per region have made the playoffs. That was also the first year higher seeds hosted first-round games.

A total of 192 teams made it that year with the number growing to 224 in 2013 when a seventh division was added.

Last season, every team was eligible for the playoffs after the regular season was shortened to six games because of the pandemic, though some teams opted out.

OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said in a news release that feedback from every team being eligible was overwhelmingly positive.

“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,” Ute said. “And football remains the only OHSAA sport in which not every team automatically qualifies for the postseason.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

This fall, nearly every team will make it in Division I, which had 71 teams spread across four regions last season.

The other divisions, which also have four regions apiece, had between 104 and 112 schools last year, meaning between 57 and 61 percent of teams would have made the postseason in each of those divisions.

The playoffs are set to begin Oct. 29-30 this fall with the state championships to be held the first weekend in December at a site to be determined.

The first Friday night of the regular season will be Aug. 20.

During the first five rounds of the playoffs, Division I, II, III and IV schools will play on Friday nights, while Division V, VI and VII schools will play on Saturday nights.

About the Author