High school football season shortened to six games; all teams will make playoffs

Season still has to be approved Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Department of Health

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Friday the 2020 football season will be shortened to six games and all teams will make the playoffs.

The decision to shorten the season came following a recommendation from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who is concerned about a COVID-19 spike in early winter. The season still hinges on contact sports being permitted to compete by DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health.

“To both ensure we can offer students the opportunity to participate in education-based athletes but do so with their best interests in mind, we believe this modified plan offers a positive solution by addressing many of the concerns of our member schools,” said Jeff Cassella, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors and athletic administrator at Mentor High School. “Those that are able to start their seasons on time will be able to do so. Those that are starting later can still have a season. Add in the option of all schools entering the playoffs and the possibility of schools still being able to play 10 regular season contests, and this plan is helpful to virtually all of our schools.”

In a press release, the OHSAA said it considers this “a win win for the schools because it will not matter how many games a team has played leading up to the playoffs.” It anticipates there will many teams that have played few, if any, regular-season games before the playoffs because many schools have delayed the starts of their seasons.

If there is a season, it will begin the week of Aug. 24. The regular season will end Sept. 28. The playoffs will begin Oct. 9, and state championships would be played no later than Nov. 21. The length of the playoffs will be determined by how many teams are playing in each division.

The OHSAA will also allow schools that have been eliminated from the playoffs or that choose not to enter the playoffs to schedule additional regular-season games through Nov. 14. Teams can play a maximum of 10 regular-season games if they do that.

The OHSAA will not use the computer ratings to determine the playoff seedings this fall. Seeding will be done via a vote by coaches the week of Sept. 28.

All playoff games through the regional semifinals and possibly the regional finals will be hosted by the higher-seeded team, and schools must commit to the playoffs by 11:59 p.m. Sept. 13. Playoff regions will be drawn on Sept. 18, and schools can withdraw from the playoffs without penalty until Sept. 24.

“The regions previously approved during the May 2020 OHSAA Board of Directors meetings will not be used,” the OHSAA announced. “Due to mass changes in participation in the sport from our member schools since May, regions will be re‐drawn. We need to know which schools have decided to not to enter the playoffs by September 24 in order for the coaches to complete a newly devised (for football) voting and seeding process by September 30.”

There will not be a single site for all seven state championship games.

“Availability of sites and proximity to participating schools will be taken into consideration during site selection,” the OHSAA announced.

The OHSAA also said, “A decision on spectators at contact sports has not yet been made. However, the OHSAA believes that at a minimum parents should be permitted to attend.”

Football practice began across the state Saturday, though many schools across Ohio have chosen not to play this fall or have not started practice yet. Dayton Public Schools and Middletown High School are among the local school districts to suspend sports.

Some conferences, like the Greater Western Ohio Conference and Miami Valley League, reconfigured their schedules last week, announcing they will play a conference-only schedule.

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