Coaches group against expanded Ohio high school football playoffs


By Bailey Johnson - The Columbus Dispatch



The OHSAA’s decision to expand the football playoffs to 16 teams per region resulted in a swift and strong rebuke by the state’s football coaches association.

The organization released a statement Thursday night, hours after the OHSAA announced its playoff plans, saying the expansion is financially motivated and against coaches’ wishes.

“The decision by the OHSAA to expand to a 16 team playoff format is met with complete dismay by the OHSFCA,” the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association’s Board of Directors said in a statement . “The OHSAA failed to work in good faith with our association. The OHSFCA worked for over two years to create a viable expansion of the playoff system. The OHSFCA proposed the playoff expansion to 12 teams in January of 2020. The OHSAA approved this expansion in the spring of 2020 for the 2021 season.

“We are extremely disappointed in yesterday’s vote by the OHSAA without consulting the OHSFCA. It is abundantly clear that this decision is financially motivated.”

Members of the OHSFCA board could not be reached for further comment.

The OHSAA on Friday released a memo detailing a proposal for each member school to pay a fee of $50 for each sanctioned sport they compete in. The OHSAA’s revenue has been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the institution of dues is intended to offset some of that revenue loss.

Within the memo, the OHSAA stated that despite a budget predicting a revenue loss of more than $1 million, the organization turned positive revenue in the fall in large part as a result of the expansion of the football playoffs.

“While the fiscal year 2020-21 budget predicted a $1.3 million loss for the organization, OHSAA had net positive revenue after the fall season due mostly to the increase in the number of football tournament games,” it wrote.

Last fall, 12 teams per region made the football playoffs, with the top four teams in each region receiving byes. The increase to 16 teams removes the byes and adds two games per region to the playoff calendar for a total of 56 additional games.

In the same memo, the OHSAA has stated that 80% of its revenue comes from gate revenue in the playoffs, so increasing the number of games has a clear financial benefit for the organization.

Though the OHSAA Board of Directors voted unanimously for the 16-team format, the OHSAA said an informal survey revealed coaches were split approximately 50/50 on whether they preferred 12 teams per region or 16, with a slight edge in favor of 12.

“It was definitely 50/50,” Northland coach Ryan Sayers said. “I talked to a lot of coaches about it and we were all kind of up in the air about it. I think a lot of coaches realize both sides of the story.”

Watterson coach Brian Kennedy said Thursday that he has spoken to some coaches who are conflicted about the decision, but he didn’t think any would publicly say they disagreed. Hours later, the coaches association released its statement and did just that.

Among the coaches The Dispatch spoke with, those who did express reservations about the decision were more concerned with the potential impact on competitive balance and a change in the meaning of making the playoffs than a financial benefit to the OHSAA. All said they supported the expansion decision, though it’s becoming clear that there’s little, if any, unanimity statewide.

“The best team is going to always win, so no matter what, it’s still special,” Sayers said. “And to make that experience for more kids, it’s just an important thing to me no matter if you get blown out that game or if you feel like you shouldn’t even be playing this team.

“We’ve got to start thinking about every kid instead of just thinking about our own teams or our own selves. You’ve got to realize that there are a lot of different situations, especially in high school football in Ohio.”

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By Bailey Johnson

The Columbus Dispatch

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