COLUMBUS — The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors voted unanimously Wednesday to expand the football playoffs from eight schools per region to 12 beginning in the 2021 season.
During the first round of the playoffs, the top four seeds will have a bye, while the No. 12 seed will play at the No. 5 seed, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7 and No. 9 at No. 8. In the second round, the No. 1 seed will play the winner of the 8 vs. 9 game; the No. 2 seed will play the winner of 6 vs. 11; the No. 3 seed will play the winner of 7 vs. 10 and the No. 4 seed will play the winner of 5 vs. 12.
The expansion will increase the number of football playoff qualifiers from 224 to 336. Last year there were 709 schools in Ohio that played 11-man football. Football is the only OHSAA team sport in which not every school qualifies for the postseason.
“We still have details to work out regarding the format and specific season dates, but this vote by the hoard gives us the green light to finalize those details for 2021,” OHSAA administratord Beau Rugg said in a news release. “We are thankful for the board’s support on this proposal, which will bring all the great things of playoff football to 112 additional schools and communities.”
Rugg also noted that the football finals in 2021 are expected to end during the same weekend as previously scheduled (Dec. 2-5). Schools will still be permitted to play 10 regular-season contests.
The higher seeded teams will have the opportunity to serve as playoff hosts during the first and second rounds of the playoffs.
The OHSAA football playoffs began in 1972 when 12 schools qualified for the playoffs (four schools in each of three classes). Expansion first came in 1980 when the OHSAA changed to five divisions with eight teams each (40 total qualifiers).
A sixth division was added in 1994 (96 total qualifiers) and the number of qualifiers was increased to eight schools per region in 1999 (192 total qualifiers). A seventh division was added in 2013 to bring the number of qualifiers to 224.