The more the merrier.
That’s the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s take on the football playoffs at least, as the Board of Directors voted unanimously to expand them from eight schools per region to 12 beginning in the 2021 season.
“We still have details to work out regarding the format and specific season dates, but this vote by the Board gives us the green light to finalize those details for 2021,” said Beau Rugg, Senior Director of Officiating and Sport Management for the OHSAA and the Association’s football administrator. “We are thankful for the Board’s support on this proposal, which will bring all the great things of playoff football to 112 additional schools and communities.”
With the expansion comes a new incentive for the top four teams in each region: a bye week. During the first round of the playoffs, the No. 12 seed will play the No. 5 seed, No. 11 will travel to No. 6, No. 10 will play at No. 7 and No. 8 will host No. 9.
The second round will feature the top seed in each region against the winner of the 8 vs. 9 game; the No. 2 seed will play the winner of 7 vs. 10; the No. 3 seed will play the winner of 6 vs. 11 and the No. 4 seed will play the winner of 5 vs. 12.
The higher-seeded teams will host their playoff games in each of the first two rounds. After that, the usual neutral sites will come into play.
Football is the only OHSAA team sport that doesn’t allow every school to qualify. That’ll obviously still be the case, but of the 709 schools in Ohio that play 11-man football, 336 will now make the cut (up from 224).
Other than that, the season should look relatively similar. Teams will still be allowed to play 10 regular-season games and the finals are expected to end during the same weekend they were previously scheduled (Dec. 2-5).