With the addition of a seventh state title game next year, the OHSAA will change the schedule of when games are played. But if member schools vote to separate the tournament, it may do more harm than good for public schools, OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross warns.
High school football’s state championships are back in Stark County. Not for good, and not to stay.
Friday and Saturday’s state championship games, split between Paul Brown Tiger Stadium and Fawcett Stadium, are the first of a two-year contract the Ohio High School Athletic Association signed, which in effect, split the baby. After the state title games in 2014, they will move to Ohio Stadium in Columbus for two years.
OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross was in town Monday as the speaker at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club. Unlike last year, Ross left time for questions from the membership at Tozzi’s on 12th. One of the first ones dealt with the split.
What would the OHSAA do if Columbus does not support the games in both tickets sales and organization as well as Stark County has?
“If we didn’t have the support, then we have a question to take to the board to deal with,” Ross said.
However, Ross will recommend to the OHSAA board of directors next month a four-year contract extension between Stark County and Columbus again. The games have been in Stark County since 1990. Columbus never has hosted six state championship games.
“There’s a well-oiled machine down there, and they’re working with the people of Stark County to develop that,” Ross said. “We want the transition to be seamless.”
When the games are not in Stark County, (beginning in 2014) Ross believes Columbus will host games and attendance could get a spark because of the “novelty impact.”
“The two years the games leave, it helps you appreciate what you have,” Ross said.
Regardless of where the games are held, the format will change after this season.
The OHSAA is adding a seventh division in football next year and expanding the playoffs by 32 teams. The top 10 percent of enrollment will make up Division I. It is expected, for example, Massillon will move to Division II next year, while Hoover, Perry and McKinley will be close to Division II.
The six games have rotated between Massillon and Canton. Typically, Paul Brown Tiger Stadium is the site of two games on Friday and one on Saturday. Fawcett hosts one Friday and two Saturday.
That will change with the additional seventh state title game next year. The likely schedule, Ross said, will be to hold three games Friday, two Saturday and then two Sunday.
Also, signatures on a petition to put a referendum issue that would separate the tournament between public and non-public schools will be turned in to the OHSAA today. If that referendum passes, the OHSAA would have to hold two state tournaments.
“There are 72 non-public schools that play football,” Ross said. “When you look at that, you could have a school like Central Catholic playing St. Ignatius for a state title. That probably isn’t going to work. ... So then you look at having two divisions (among non-public schools). ... Then if you have two divisions, you’re looking at almost every team making the playoffs (among non-public schools).”
Page 2 of 2 - That does not mean the public schools would stay at seven divisions, or even six.
To keep expenses in order, the OHSAA may have to have two non-public school divisions, in which 32 of 36 teams in each division qualify, and then four or five public school state championship games in football.
“If you sit and think about the options out there, there could be adverse effects on a lot of things,” Ross said. “I think separating the tournaments is extreme, and I think doing nothing is extreme. That’s why the last two years we tried to find something in the middle.”
Member schools voted down those initiatives twice by close margins.
The issue of non-public vs. public schools and leveling the playing field has been debated for more than 30 years. Nothing has been resolved. However, it appears the OHSAA is moving in that direction.
“If you’re a non-public school, you have to recruit kids to keep the doors open,” Ross said. “You just can’t recruit athletes.”
Which prompted, perhaps, the best question of the morning.
“Central Catholic doesn’t recruit the way St. Ignatius does?”
A handful in the audience laughed. Ross got wide-eyed.
“I’m not answering that,” he said, laughing.