(2-16-19) The past week the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Board of Directors decided to keep the state football championships in Canton.
For many Ohio high school football fans they question holding the state championships on the far-eastern side of Ohio in Canton, when you see that Morgantown, West Virginia (186 miles) and Pittsburgh (103 miles) are closer to Canton then Dayton (197 miles) and Cincinnati (234 miles).
Attendance continues to falter in the State Championship games, last year the highest attended game was when Canton area teams, Akron Hoban and Massillon Washington, played in the D II game that drew a crowd of 16, 213 (highest in four years) or 31% of the overall 2018 attendance. Why? easy access for fans of those teams to attend and enjoy the biggest game of the year for their teams.
Canton Vs Columbus Attendance Numbers
Year 2018 2017 2016 2015 D I 8,927 - 12,711 - 13,690 - 11,036 D II 16,213 - 7,235 - 6,750 - 11,168 D III 6,922 - 6,923 - 7,396 - 7,553 D IV 5,532 - 10,251 - 8,636 - 10,141 D V 6,002 - 9,588 - 5,954 - 7,200 D VI 4,380 - 8,062 - 6,270 - 7,034 D VII 4,414 - 6,542 - 6,725 - 7,957
2018 all seven state championship games was 52,390
2017 all seven state championship games was 61,312
2016 all seven state championship games was 55,421
2015 all seven state championship games was 62,089
So why is low-attendance a problem in a football state like Ohio? Could it be 10 am games on Friday morning and Saturday mornings, championship games on Saturday, it might be-
Tim Stried, director of communications for the OHSAA told the Columbus Dispatch in 2017 on the Big Ten’s decision to play games on Friday night–
“To go against the high school fans is not right. The colleges should stick to playing on Saturday, leave high school Friday night alone, and support high schools playing on Friday night.”
In 2016 Matt Dennison, president of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association
“We would like to express our disappointment with the Big Ten Conference’s decision to play football games on Friday nights. Our association is vehemently opposed to this action as it infringes on a great American tradition of high school football, is not in the best interest of student athletes, cripples the small budgets of high school athletic departments, disrupts the relationships between high school coaches and Big Ten coaches, and hinders the recruiting process.”
So why hold the all of the state championship games on Saturday?
The OHSAA has a good plan in place when doing the earlier rounds of playoff games, playing them at a neutral site convenient for each school. Why not do that with the Championship games and play them all on Friday nights at regional locations.
2017 State Semifinal Sites
Why does the OHSAA want games in a single city site like Canton? What is the incentive package to the OHSAA for holding the event? What is TV package incentives to the OHSAA with Spectrum News 1, a 24/7 local news network covering Ohio with five distinct channels in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Northwest Ohio.
Why Canton and not a central location like Columbus?
Jerry Snodgrass, OHSAA Executive Director
“We have a great site in Canton for the football finals and we are pleased to return there in December. We will continue to talk with Ohio State and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission about hosting in the future, but we wanted to make a decision this winter regarding 2019 and we would need more time to come to an agreement with Columbus. In Stark County, we have great hosts with Visit Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame and we are fortunate to stay there another year.”
While the ‘Horseshoe’ is a great venue for a state championship, 7,000 fans in a 100,000 seat venue can be very lonely and more likely more expensive to rent. A good solution could be playing at quality regional locations which will give the teams participating a chance for a larger number of their fans to attend the biggest game of the season for them.
The solution could be in the future – Play all of the State Championship games on Friday night at regional sites. The chances of this happening ‘slim to none’, the OHSAA won’t consider it anytime soon.