Football: OHSAA shortens regular season, expands playoffs to all teams

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Friday afternoon it plans to shorten the 2020 football season regular season and open the playoffs to every team, resulting in a seven-week postseason.

If the state government permits football games to be played, a six-week regular season will kick off the week of Aug. 24. For the first time in association history, every team will be eligible for the playoffs, which will kick off Oct. 9.

As of now, football and other contact sports cannot play games. The OHSAA said it is continuing to work with the governor’s office and Ohio Department of Health on COVID-19 related safety protocols that will allow for contact sports to play games.

The association said its adjustment comes after the governor’s office made a recommendation earlier this week to shorten the season due to concerns of a COVID-19 spike in early winter.

Before Friday’s adjustment, the OHSAA’s football calendar called for the season to culminate in state championships the first week of December. The new calendar will end the season two weeks earlier.

“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,” Jeff Cassella, OHSAA board of directors president and Mentor High School athletic director, said in a statement.

In addition to expanding the playoffs, the OHSAA says after teams lose in playoff games, they can continue to play regular-season games until Nov. 14. Schools can also choose to opt out of postseason play and continue to play regular-season games through Nov. 14.

“Those (schools) that are able to start their seasons on time will be able to do so. Those (schools) that are starting later can still have a season,” Cassella said. “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.”

Also for the first time this season, Harbins computer ratings will not be used to determined playoff seeding. Coaches in each region will vote and seed each team to form a bracket, as is done in all other team sport tournaments. Playoff seeding voting and meetings will take place the week of Sept. 28.

The OHSAA also said its current regional assignments won’t be used. New regions will be decided Sept. 18.

Playoff contests through at least regional semifinals and possibly through regional final rounds will be hosted by the higher-seeded team. Neutral sites will be used for state semifinal and final rounds and possibly regional finals.

The OHSAA also announced there will not be a single site for all seven state championship games, which has been the case since state finals moved to Ohio Stadium in 2014. It didn’t say how many venues will be used for state finals but said availability and proximity to participating schools will be taken into consideration during site selection.

The association also said teams can keep their first six scheduled games and also said all remaining regular-season contracts for games are now voidable by either school.

The OHSAA added in Friday’s memo that while a decision on spectators at contact sports has not yet been made, it believes at a minimum parents “should be permitted to attend.”