The Ohio High School Athletic Association provided clarity on Friday about how the 2020 high school football season will be played.
The OHSAA announced that the upcoming gridiron regular season will be shortened, and that all teams will be eligible for the postseason.
The state championship games will be played no later than November 21.
The change in plans comes following a recommendation from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office that the season be shortened due to concerns about a potential COVID-19 spike early in the winter.
The OHSAA Board of Directors voted 9-0 to approve the proposal of the shortened season. The regular season will be six weeks, leading into the postseason.
The normal computer point ratings that form the playoff rankings in each region won’t be used in 2020. Coaches in each region will instead hold a tournament seeding meeting — similar to other OHSAA sports — the week of Sept. 28. That meeting will result in a regional bracket to be posted on October 1.
New regions will be determined based on how many teams wish to compete in the postseason. Not every school is required to play in the postseason, but must commit to participate no later than Sept. 17. The regions will be drawn the next day.
Schools will then have until Thursday, Sept. 24 to withdrawal from the playoffs without a penalty.
Another wrinkle to the season is the fact that teams can continue playing regular season games, even if they have been eliminated from the postseason. Regular season games can continue up until Nov. 14, with a maximum of 10 regular season games permitted.
“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.”
All of this is still contingent on Gov. DeWine approving contact sports for school vs. school competition.
The OHSAA’s release also stated that a decision on spectators at contact sports has not yet been made, but the organization believes that parents, at a minimum, should be permitted to attend.
The OHSAA also cited a recent survey done of superintendents, principals and athletic administrators where 60 percent of the responses favored either reducing the regular season and maintaining full OHSAA tournaments or keeping a full regular season to go with a full OHSAA tournament slate.
The regular season will still begin the week of Aug. 24, with the final week of regular season football coming on Sept. 28. The first round of the postseason will be Oct. 9. How many rounds the playoffs ultimately consist of depends on how many schools enter the playoffs in each division.
Divisions with 32 to 64 teams will have six rounds of playoff games, while divisions with 65 ore more teams will have seven rounds to navigate.
Most playoff games will be held at home sites. All playoff games through the regional semifinals, and possibly regional finals will be hosted by the higher seed.
The OHSAA also determined that no single site will host all seven state championship games, as availability of sites and proximity to the participating schools will be factors.
If a school is not able to play a game during the postseason due to COVID-19, then the game will be a forfeit and the opponent will advance. If both teams are unable to play because of COVID-19, then neither team will advance and the opponent of the next round automatically advances in the bracket.
All regular season contracts are voidable by either school, as each league will have to now decide on its league schedule.
The Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division appears to have an easy solution, now that Miller, Wahama and Federal Hocking are no longer part of the league schedule. Miller and Wahama left for new leagues, while Federal Hocking is playing an independent schedule for the next two seasons.
That means Trimble, Eastern, Belpre, Southern, Waterford and South Gallia can play league games over the final five weeks of the initial six-week season, with each school picking one non-league team to keep for week one.
The situation in the TVC-Ohio will be a little more difficult to plan for. With seven league teams, it takes the final seven weeks of the season to get six league games in.
However, whichever league games don’t get played before the postseason can still be played once both teams have lost in the playoffs.