”A Closer Look” with Mark Miller – Week #10
The regular season is over and for many teams, the football year is over as well. But for a lot of teams, 448 actually, the playoffs mean at least one more game before it’s time to concentrate on basketball and wrestling. For some teams, the playoffs have been part of the plan all season. Something they expected and worked for each and every week during the regular season. For others it may be a surprise for having a better season than expected. And for others it may be another game they really don’t want to play. Why you ask? Let me share my opinion on having 16 teams make the playoffs in every region (28 total) across the 7 divisions of the OHSAA football playoffs. Note – this is the first year for 16 teams per region. Last year all teams that wanted to play were allowed in the playoffs due to Covid. For many years before that, it was 8 teams per region.
The OHSAA said the reason for doubling the number of playoff teams was to allow the players, schools and communities to experience the thrill of playoff football (or something like that). To enjoy the excitement and pride of postseason play along with making some extra money (concessions/parking) after losing revenue last year. Sounds good right? Personally, I believe the motives for the OHSAA adding another round of playoffs was financially driven much more than the stated benefits for the high schools and their teams. After all, the OHSAA lost a lot of revenue themselves during 2020. They completely lost or had much reduced championships which bring in money they use to operate year ‘round. To recover they have added school membership fees and with the expansion of football playoffs will bring in much needed money.
If it is all about the student-athlete let’s look at that in detail. To win a state championship a teenager (15-18 yr.) will now have to play a total of 16 games (10 regular season and 6 playoffs). That is more than 20, 21 and 22 year olds play to win a national championship in college and until this year, the same that professionals played in a regular NFL season. In a day and age when player safety is in the forefront, is playing more games healthy for young kids? Twice as many kids are playing an 11th game and 14 teams will play a total of 16 games.
Now let’s look at the competitiveness of another round of playoffs. Div. 1 Region 1 has #16 Lorain (1-9) playing at #1 (and overall #1 in the state) St Ed. (8-1) and in Region 4 #16 Cinn. Oak Hills (0-10) plays at #1 Cinn. Moeller (7-3). Is playing another game after a very disappointing season and getting crushed by some state powerhouse a good experience for those kids. Is losing in that fashion good for the mental health (a real concern today) of teenagers?
This year 448 playoff teams out of 709 member football school comes out to 63%. No longer is making the playoffs a reward for a good season. This year 77 teams will enter the playoffs with a losing record and 49 more have .500 records. That means 126 of the 448 teams (or 28% – more than ¼) did not finish the regular season with winning records. I already mentioned the 0-10 team above. There is even one team, Ft. Loramie in Div. 7 that has a losing record at 4-6 and is rewarded with a HOME game! We are rewarding mediocrity. Too many teams in the playoffs!
My opinion … if you are going to let this many poor teams in the playoffs, then let them all in. However, to do that you either have to play additional rounds of playoffs, which means more games for young bodies, or reduce the number of regular season games, which will diminish league and geographical rivalries. I am not in favor of either of those options. But, the OHSAA made this decision and we are left to make the best of it. Next time I just wish they would say, “we are making this change because we need the money” and not masquerade behind “doing it for the kids and schools”. Good luck to all our areas schools for a positive experience.