COLUMBUS — Following a recommendation this week from the Governor’s Office to shorten the season due to concerns that COVID-19 may spike in early winter, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Friday that if high school football games are approved by the Governor, all teams will enter the playoffs beginning Oct. 9 and the state championship games will be played no later than Nov. 21.
The OHSAA Board of Directors, which assisted OHSAA staff to create the proposal and approved it by a 9-0 vote, considers this a win-win situation for all schools since it will not matter how many games each team has played leading up to the playoffs. Instead of the computer ratings system determining which teams qualify for the playoffs, the coaches in each region will conduct a tournament seed meeting the week of September 28 to form the regional bracket, similar to the process in other OHSAA team sports.
Schools may keep their first six previously scheduled games, but all regular-season football contracts are now voidable by either school, especially in the event that conferences redo their league schedules to fit into the first six weeks. In addition, the OHSAA will determine new playoff regions in September. Schools that are eliminated from the playoffs may continue to schedule regular-season games up until November 14.
Schools that have currently paused sports could still begin their season in September or early October and compete in the playoffs. Schools are not required to enter the playoffs if they would rather play regular-season games up until November 14.
“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.”
The highest number of responses to one of the questions posed of superintendents, principals and athletic administrators in a recent OHSAA membership survey indicated that nearly 60 percent (890 of 1,498 respondents) favored either reducing the regular season and maintaining full OHSAA tournaments or maintaining the full regular season and maintaining full OHSAA tournaments.
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.
As a reminder, four of the OHSAA’s fall sports have been determined to be low-contact by the Governor’s Office and thus are permitted to have contests with other schools, including golf, tennis, volleyball and cross country. The OHSAA’s fall sports of field hockey, soccer and football have been determined to be high-contact sports and the OHSAA continues to work with the Governor’s Office and the Ohio Department of Health toward modified protocols for those three sports to have contests.