The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors approved the 2021 football tournament regulations Thursday during its April Board meeting that included proposals from the OHSAA staff to increase the number of playoff qualifiers and change the format of the regional playoffs.
The number of playoff qualifiers will expand to 16 schools per region. In addition, the higher seeded team will host first and second round playoff games, instead of only the first round, before neutral sites are used beginning with the regional semifinals. In the first round, the No. 16 seed will play at the No. 1 seed, the No. 15 seed will play at the No. 2 seed, etc.
“Last fall we received overwhelmingly positive feedback when we allowed every team to enter the football playoffs due to the shortened season because of COVID-19,” said Doug Ute, OHSAA Executive Director. “We know there are some who want to keep the football postseason to a smaller number of schools, but the postseason tournament gives such a positive experience for our student-athletes, the schools and their communities that we felt strongly about giving that opportunity to more schools to make the playoffs. And football remains the only OHSAA sport in which not every team automatically qualifies for the postseason.”
The OHSAA is also exploring adding a strength of schedule component to the Harbin computer ratings, which are used to determine the playoff qualifiers. A strength of schedule component could be added in 2022.
During the regional semifinals and regional finals at neutral sites, the higher seeded team will be the designated home team. The OHSAA then determines the sites and matchups for the state semifinals.
The expansion will increase the number of football playoff qualifiers from 224 to 448. Last year there were 709 schools in Ohio that played 11-man football. Since 1999, eight schools in each region have qualified for the playoffs. In May 2020, the OHSAA announced that the football playoffs would expand to 12 teams per region in 2021 and the top four seeds in each region would have a first-round bye. Expanding to 16 schools per region does not add a week to the postseason since it was already now six weeks, it simply eliminates the byes.
During the first five rounds of the playoffs, Division I, II, III and IV schools will play on Friday nights, while Division V, VI and VII schools will play on Saturday nights.