By Samuel Houseworth
(10-31-19) If you’ve been following my Ohio High School Athletic Association football ratings this season, you’ll have noticed mentions that Gibsonburg will very likely be the first 10-0 team since 2001 to miss the postseason. Pending a huge upset this Friday, that will be a reality and will leave the Golden Bears wondering, “What if?”
If they were any of the other 3 D-VI regions, they would be headed to the postseason (#8 in R21, #5 in R22, & #4 in R24). In fact, Gibsonburg is as close to the schools of R22 as they are R23. So why should the Golden Bears be denied a playoff spot just because the OHSAA drew the regional boundaries the way they did? How do we prevent a 10-0 team like Gibsonburg from missing the postseason in the future?
1. GET RID OF REGIONS
This is the simplest route the OHSAA can take. The regions are mostly based on geography, but as we have seen for many years, this can result in terribly unbalanced regions. R23 is just one example. R14 in D-IV and R9 in D-III are nearly as loaded. While R15 in D-IV and R-19 in D-V are significantly weak compared to the rest of their divisions. By getting rid of regions, the top rated 32 teams from each division can get into the playoffs and not worry about who they were slotted into the same region as.
One benefit of the current system is keeping the higher rated teams at home for the first weekend. But again, these are only the top 4 teams in each region and not the top 16 teams in each division. But this is a simple fix by looking at how UEFA puts teams in “pots” for their qualification tournaments. The only difference is that there would only be 2 pots: Home Teams (Ranked 1-16) and Away Teams (Ranked 17-32).
3. REDUCING TRAVEL
Obviously, doing a playoff of 1 vs 32, 2 vs 31, etc, would be taxing on students, coaches, parents, and fans, who may need to drive up to 4 or 5 hours each week for a playoff game. The regions do a good job of keeping teams close to home, but there are better ways to reduce travel. Last year, Pepper Pike Orange had to travel 3+ hours to face St. Mary’s in a first round game, despite being in the same region. If the playoffs started today, St. Clairsville would have a 3+ hour drive to Waverly in R15. Portsmouth would have the same to Ridgewood in R19. And it’s not limited to small schools, Troy at St. John’s Jesuit is 2 hours each way.
If the playoffs started today, the distances between competing schools would be an average of 49.9 miles. However, if we pairs up teams by division, and making sure an Away Pot team played a Home Pot team, and just made sure the smallest distances was between schools, that average could be cut down to 39.0 miles, a 20% decrease in mileage. St. Clairsville would only have a 45-minute drive to Indian Creek. Portsmouth would have a 20-minute trip to Wheelersburg. Troy would only have an hour drive to Winton Woods.
With the technology and programs we have today, it’s not difficult to make sure that the right teams get into the playoffs and can also save time and money on weekly travel.
4. LATER ROUNDS
Without a bracket, the later rounds would follow the same format as the first round. Teams are separated in Home Teams (top half) and Away Teams (bottom half). Then, using our computer program, paired up to reduce the combined travel as much as mathematically possible.
The added benefit to this is preventing the 2 best teams in the state from playing each other in the 2nd or 3rd round, solely because they are put into the same region.
– – – – – – – – – – –
The chart below outlines how much travel teams would have to do for the first round of the OHSAA Playoffs, from shortest trip to longest.
If you want to take a look at what the maps would look like and where your school could go, you can click on the two links below to see how things would shape up after Week 9.
OHSAA Currently: https://drive.google.com/open?id=18yjYLF9GyIotpVez21K8FHy4yBNOS5TC
OHSAA Without Regions: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1zmzuGX9UEpn2WJETFvaXuT_3T2PVqUwd