By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — The high school football playoffs will have a new look this fall.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association recently announced it will be changing its football postseason schedule. Beginning this fall, Division I, II, IV and VI playoff games will be played at 7:30 p.m. on Friday nights, while Division III, V and VII playoff games will be played at 7 p.m. on Saturday nights.
In recent years, Divisions I, IV and VI playoff games had been held on Saturday nights, while Division III, V and VII playoff games were held on Friday nights. Division II is the only division to remain in its original slot on Friday nights.
According to the OHSAA, decreased attendance at Division I games on Saturday nights was a driving force behind the decision. More and more college teams — particularly the Ohio State football team — are playing on Saturday nights, creating competition for Division I playoff games.
This season alone, Ohio State already is scheduled to play five of its games at 5:30 p.m. or later.
The OHSAA also cited the difficulty in finding available facilities on Saturdays — due to other school functions or lack of staffing — as a reason for the moves.
“In Ohio’s larger cities where the Division I schools are located, we have been competing with college games and other events on Saturdays, both in terms of fans and facilities being available,” Beau Rugg, OHSAA Assistant Commissioner and football administrator, said. “Moving Division I playoff games to Friday nights has been something our football tournament committee has been thinking about for a couple years. With the endorsement of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, we felt it was the right time to make the change, and the OHSAA Board of Directors agreed.”
It will be the first time since 1980 that Division I playoff games will be regularly scheduled for Friday nights. It bears mentioning that no Division I teams compete in Miami County.
Last year, six area teams — Tippecanoe, Piqua, Milton-Union, Miami East, Covington and Lehman — qualified for the playoffs.
In Division III, Piqua and Tippecanoe met in the Region 10 regional quarterfinals. Tippecanoe beat Piqua 37-12 before falling the next week to Trotwood-Madison in the regional semifinals.
In Division V, Milton-Union lost to Greeneview in the Region 18 quarterfinals. In Division VI, Miami East lost to Marion Local in the Region 22 quarterfinals.
In Division VII, Lehman beat Covington 20-16 in the Region 22 quarterfinals before falling to Fort Recovery in the regional semifinals.
A total of 716 schools will begin the 2016 season in August aiming for one of 224 playoff berths.
The 2016-17 school year is the second year of the OHSAA’s current two-year enrollment and divisional alignment cycle. During the 2016-17 school year, the OHSAA will again work with the Ohio Department of Education to determine enrollment counts to be used for the next two-year cycle (2017-18 and 2018-19 school years).
Those new enrollment numbers will be combined with the competitive balance roster data that schools will submit on a sport-by-sport basis in football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong