OHSFCA blindsided by OHSAA football proposal

The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s announcement on Friday of a plan to limit the regular season and expand the playoffs came as a surprise to many.

Including the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association.

The OHSFCA said in a memo to members late Friday it wasn’t consulted about the new plan, which calls for a six-week regular season and seven-week postseason. The OHSFCA said it was guaranteed in early April it would have a “seat at the table” for all football decisions.

“It is disappointing that the OHSAA did not hold true to its word and reach out to our association for input regarding their plan for football this fall,” OHSFCA president Tom Pavlansky wrote in the memo.

The OHSAA cited concern from the governor’s office of a COVID-19 surge in early winter as a driving force for the plan, which would shorten the season by two weeks and conclude with state championship games being played the third week of November.

Football and all fall sports teams began practice last Saturday. Non-contact sports have been cleared for competition by the state government, but contact sports (including football and soccer) have not been cleared to play games.

OHSFCA and OHSAA representatives met with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on Monday to discuss plans for the season. Among the topics discussed was the OHSFCA’s wide-ranging plan that covers practice and gameday protocols among other topics.

“It was a positive meeting,” Pavlansky said by phone on Saturday. “It was an encouraging meeting.

“The Lt. Gov. was straightforward. I think he understands the value of football, the value of sports and all the lessons that teaches.”

Feedback from coaches and athletic administrators on social media about the OHSAA’s football plan has been mixed. On Saturday, the OHSAA re-tweeted many messages supportive of the plan, some of which praised the plan’s flexibility. Other coaches questioned the plan’s feasibility and characterized it as an effort to save face.

Pavlansky said he’s heard mixed feedback from coaches.

“It’s like anything else,” Pavlansky said. “People react to change all kinds of ways. I think coaches are concerned about schedules right now. With a six-week season and everyone making the playoffs, there’s a concern about what happens to Weeks 7 through 10. Contracts now being voidable is a concern.

“We’re just going to have wait and see. We’re about three weeks out (from Week 1), so there’s still time for clarification and opportunities to get things resolved.”

If the governor’s office allows for contact sports to be played, Ohio will be one of few states with prep football starting on time. According to information compiled by the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations, 36 states have delayed the start of the season and 12 have postponed the season to 2021.

A few dozen school districts (including Dayton Public Schools and Trotwood-Madison) across the state have postponed or canceled fall sports.

The OHSAA said in a memo sent July 31 if permission to play games isn’t given by the state by Sept. 4, it will postpone contact sports, presumably to 2021.

Pavlansky said he’s hopeful football will get the green light for games soon.

“The coaches association is ready to work with the governor’s office and the OHSAA to ensure a responsible fall season,” Pavlansky said.