COLUMBUS – The tournament format for the OHSAA Division I football playoffs will move from two regions to four regions beginning this fall following a 9-0 vote this morning by the OHSAA Board of Directors during its April meeting. With four regions (map is linked below), Division I moves back into the same format as Divisions II through VII, with a greater emphasis on the regional championship games and decreased travel.
The proposal, which came jointly from the OHSAA staff and the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, does not change the number of Division I qualifiers (32, same as other divisions), but will have its tournament field comprised of eight qualifiers coming from each of four regions, rather than 16 teams from two regions, as has been done beginning in 2013 when the OHSAA expanded the football playoffs to seven Divisions and reduced the number of schools in Division I to only the largest 72 schools in Ohio.
“Changing Division I to four regions is a great decision for many reasons,” Beau Rugg, OHSAA Assistant Commissioner and the state’s football administrator, said. “First and foremost, it cuts down significantly on travel, especially in the first round. It also allows Division I to go back to having a true regional championship game in the third round, followed by the state semifinals.”
For the last three years, the regional finals in Division I were the fourth round, which also served as the state semifinals.
Each of the four regions in Division I will contain 18 schools and will qualify eight to the playoffs. The Division I regional map for 2016 is posted at: http://www.ohsaa.org/sports/ft/boys/2016/2016DivisionIRegions.pdf
Of note, only 22 of Ohio’s 88 counties currently have a Division I football school, thus Division I will have three split counties (Cuyahoga, Franklin and Montgomery) in order to equally place 18 teams into each region. In Divisions II through VII, the OHSAA draws regional boundaries so that all teams within a county that are in the same division are kept in the same region.
“Back in 2013, we had initially talked about having four regions for Division I, but at that time we thought that since there was a smaller number of teams in Division I, that might lend itself better to having just two regions,” Rugg said. “But with only two regions the last three years, the increased travel and lack of emphasis on the regional championship game wasn’t always well received.”
The new format in Division I will be included in the 2016 football tournament regulations that will be voted on by the Board of Directors at its next meeting June 2. Any other proposed changes to the tournament regulations will also be acted upon by the Board in June.
2016 OHSAA Football Division I Schools by Region
Brunswick, Dublin Jerome, Elyria, Findlay, Lewis Center Olentangy, Powell Olentangy Liberty, Lewis Center Olentangy Orange, Lorain, Marysville, Medina, Newark, North Royalton, Parma, Strongsville, Toledo Start, Toledo Whitmer, Westerville Central, Westerville South
Austintown-Fitch, Berea-Midpark, Canton GlenOak, Canton McKinley, Cleveland Heights, Cleveland John Marshall, Cleveland Rhodes, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Cuyahoga Falls, Euclid, Lakewood, Lakewood St. Edward, Massillon Jackson, Mentor, North Canton Hoover, Shaker Heights, Solon, Stow-Munroe Falls
Beavercreek, Columbus Westland, Dublin Coffman, Gahanna Lincoln, Grove City, Grove City Central Crossing, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson, Huber Heights Wayne, Kettering Fairmont, Lancaster, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Reynoldsburg, Springfield, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington
Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller, Cincinnati Colerain, Cincinnati Elder, Cincinnati Oak Hills, Cincinnati St. Xavier, Cincinnati Sycamore, Cincinnati Western Hills, Centerville, Clayton Northmont, Fairfield, Hamilton, Lebanon, Liberty Township Lakota East, Mason, Middletown, Milford, Springboro, West Chester Lakota West
The Ohio High School Athletic Association can be followed on Twitter @OHSAASports