(6-24-21) 2021 will see an expanded high school football playoff system installed going from 8 teams to 16 teams in every region. The recent decision sparked some controversy between the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association (OHSFCA) and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).


The OHSFCA had approved an OHSAA expansion proposal from 8 schools in a region to 12, that was when Jerry Snodgrass was still the Executive Director. Before the start of the 2020 football season Snodgrass was replaced by the Board. With COVID 19 still causing big issues, the OHSAA worked and received approval from the Ohio Governor to have a six game shortened regular season, every school who wanted to compete in the playoffs was eligible to compete.

Then ‘out of the blue‘ the sudden change to 16 teams in a region was announced. The OHSFCA did not endorse the change, the change was made entirely by staff proposals and a vote of the Board of Directors.

OHSAA Board of Directors Meeting, April 22, 2021

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.

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.  

Not all schools disapproved of the new plan, especially those who might have missed out on a playoff in the past due to just missing the 8 team limit in past seasons…they like the new format and just the opportunity to play in it. The plan will most likely include any team with a .500 record or higher, there most likely be several schools with a losing record who make the cut.

There are at least a couple of bright spots to the expansion to 16 teams in a region qualifying for the playoffs.

Double the numbers of teams…means that more players will get an opportunity to compete in a state playoff game. Those extra games will produce additional income for the OHSAA (hopefully they will share with member schools). Those two items come up in many discussions of those who approve the change.

Regular season scheduling will benefit with the new plan and becoming an easier job for ADs to put together a schedule. (after last season anything would look better) In the past years computer points played a major role in a regular season schedule, issues like playing a smaller school would give you less points and could hurt your chance of making the playoffs. Some schools have avoided other schools who had high profile programs, plus other issues including contract details. Conferences have even deleted league games in the past of one to two weeks that allowed their members to play non-league schools with an opportunity to collect additional points that they might not get from beating a losing league member. With 16 teams in a region it gives a little more breathing room in how many points you will need to acquire a playoff spot.

With the recent rash of conferences adding or losing member schools on almost an yearly basis, mainly based on football scheduling. This now gives the conference the opportunity to solidify and allow member schools to stay in a setting that benefits all of their programs and keep rivalries in place …not just football.

Leagues who deleted league games to help with computer points can now consider reinstating them. Why? Those games have a better chance of bringing in a large paying crowd…instead of playing a school a couple of hours away.

Since the beginning of the playoffs one thing is certain…there will be changes in the format. But the possibility of an 8th division looks to be something we won’t see in the future. If 8-man football continues to add schools, D 7 might not be long for Ohio.

So beware the OHSAA mentioned that in 2022 they are hoping to develop a strength of schedule factor for teams.