Area leagues look to plan for six-game season

By Jose Nogueras -

Athletic directors and league commisioners are scrambling to re-arrange schedules and figure how to proceed after the Ohio High School Athletic Association approved a six-game football season and each team making the playoffs Friday.

The proposal conceived by the OHSAA and approved by the OHSAA board of directors, calls for teams to play their first six games and then proceed to the playoffs Oct. 9. Schools eliminated from the playoffs may continue to schedule their regular season games until Nov. 14.

The Western Buckeye League and Northwest Conference have scheduled meetings with their respective schools to discuss plans on how to proceed and schedule games that works Wednesday.

John Zell, Lima Senior athletic director, said the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, has a meeting slated for Monday and they will be discussing their options.

“We are like all other conferences that are having meetings and trying to set up a conference schedule,” Zell said. “That would be the No. 1 thing especially for football.”

Zell is uncertain how that will work and what that will entail but because the TRAC has seven league games it pretty much means there will be one game not played against a league opponent.

“Right when this started the main focus was if we could get some type of season in that our seniors will have an opportunity to play,” Zell said. “I wasn’t expecting a full 10 game season. I think we will try to keep the schedule as we have now whether it is week 10 or week 4.”

Kent Smelser, the WBL commissioner, said he started receiving texts soon after the announcement was made and plans quickly began to come in from league coaches on how to proceed.

“We are waiting until Wednesday because the governor is speaking tomorrow (Tuesday) and I hope he says something,” Smelser said. “With the MAC (Mid-American Conference) going down and the Big 10 possibly going down I don’t know how they are going to let us play but we will see what he says”

Despite the uncertainty, Smelser said the WBL remains cautiously optimistic about playing. He said he has been in contact with the league coaches and they have all been communicating on what works best for all the parties involved.

“I know the head coaches have a plan,” Smelser said. “I think the AD’s (athletic directors) have a plan and so we will get together Wednesday and throw them all out and see which works the best and then go from there,”

Smelser added that the six-game proposal by the OHSAA has to do with money because the broadcast revenue would go to the state and not the respective school.

“They could have left the schedule alone and we would have had the 10 games already scheduled,” Smelser said. “It’s a money thing. There is not a doubt in my mind it is a money thing. It is going to hurt the schools because you could lose some ballgames now and that is even if you are allowed to bring fans in. At this point you can’t bring fans in.”

Because the WBL plays nine league games, Smelser said there have been a number of plans being floated out there on how to proceed with the conference games. One concept was to break up the league into north-south or east-west divisions.

“If there is 10 schools there could be 10 different ideas,” Smelser said. “We are going to look at them and see what makes the most sense. There is so many unknowns at this time.”

Another concern the teams face is the county-to-county coronavirus and if teams are even allowed to play in certain counties and certain times. For example if Allen County is rated red are they going to allow another school come in that may be higher or lower rated.

Jon Derryberry, who takes over as the NWC commissioner this year, finds himself in the same situation as Smelser.

Although they do not have the same amount of schools and traditionally play seven games, the logistics of playing six games and who will host and who will not host all are key components that will be discussed at their meeting.

Like Smelser, Derryberry said that when the OHSAA made its announcement at 4:20 p.m. last Friday, he had a plethora of emails and text from NWC coaches and administrators by 4:30 p.m. ready to start discussing plans on what could be done.

Derryberry added that initially they wanted to meet Monday but like the WBL opted to wait until Wednesday to discuss the matter in deference to what DeWine might announce in the next couple of days.

“We can’t say we have a plan but I think by text we have a plan and our plan is we are definitely going to play six league games,” Derryberry said. “That we are doing. How we are doing it is another thing.”

Derryberry said via text and other correspondence that the league is leaning towards taking the last three weeks of of the season (8-10) and moving them to week two and three and not play week seven.

“If we are playing six games you sure as heck have to figure out the three-three (home and away),” Derryberry said. “If Grove and Spencerville are the better teams this year and I think that game is in Spencerville but all of a sudden we are going to move it to Grove…well there is going to have to be some give from coaches and keeping the games equal.”

Like Smelser, Derryberry agrees that this short season hurts teams and the games that will be broadcast with the OHSAA collecting the money to air the games.

Midwest Athletic Conference update

Don Kemper, the MAC commissioner released the following statement.

Due to the recent changes implemented for football by the Ohio High School Athletic Association for the 2020 football season, which caused the cancellation of many non-conference football games in Week 1 and Week 2, the Midwest Athletic Conference is announcing changes to our member schools’ football schedules. Week 1 (August 28, 2020) and Week 2 (September 4, 2020) in our 2020 schedule will be filled with our originally scheduled Week 7 (October 9, 2020) and Week 8 (October 16, 2020) games; Week 7 (guaranteed) and Week 8 (only if a team wins in Week 7) will be reserved for OHSAA playoff games. All games in Week 1 through Week 6 will be conference games, with no non-conference games being scheduled at this point. Additional games will likely be scheduled as teams are eliminated from the playoffs.

By Jose Nogueras

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