The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors officially approved the proposed changes to add a seventh division in football on Thursday during their June meeting.
The changes are being made in an effort to balance the playing field during the playoffs, particularly in Division I, where the number of enrolled boys — the measuring stick to determine what schools are placed into what division — had grown too expansive between the largest and smallest schools.
These alterations also modify the numbers in terms of how many boys are needed to be in a certain division, which in turn starts a domino effect of schools dropping into lower divisions.
The most noteworthy schools who missed the cutoff point and will drop from Division I to Division II this upcoming fall are Massillon, Twinsburg and Nordonia. Massillon went 11-2 last season, which included two wins over rival Canton McKinley, which will stay in Division I. Massillon also beat Nordonia in the playoffs, and the two will drop down to Division II together.
Nordonia coach Jeff Fox says the changes are a step in the right direction, but the challenge to make the playoffs still remains the biggest task. In other words, there’s a reason why nothing’s decided until after the games are over.
“It’s a good thing they’re trying to make it so everyone has a chance to compete,” Fox said. “It’s a disadvantage to play teams that are much larger than you. Today, it takes into account everyone’s concern and trying to do things that help everyone out and do what’s best for the kids and give them an opportunity to compete.
“But we try to keep the attitude that it’s important to take care of business until we do have the reward to play against those teams. We have to worry about Week 1 in the Suburban League.”
Some Suburban League Schools, such as Green and Wadsworth are now among the smallest Division I schools in the area, just making the cut by a dozen or so boys. Likewise, in Division II, many schools now have the added competition of three strong football programs. That list of schools preparing to face former Division I opponents includes Highland, Kent Roosevelt, Lake, Copley, Firestone and Walsh Jesuit.
The schools dropping from Division II to Division III include Aurora, Tallmadge, Cloverleaf, Revere, Kenmore, Garfield, Louisville, Alliance, Coventry, East and Springfield. They will join the likes of Buchtel, Archbishop Hoban, Ravenna and last year’s state champion in Division III, St. Vincent-St. Mary.
St. V-M coach Dan Boarman says the changes were positive, but the games still have to be played.
“We’ll go wherever we have to go, it’s just the nature of the beast,” Boarman said. “There was such a disparity in Division I so they had to do something. It was a good move. But it doesn’t matter who we play, we’ll play who we have to. In the end, the best win.”
Dropping drown from Division III to Division IV are Crestwood, Field, Southeast, Minerva, Northwest, Woodridge and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.
Mogadore, a traditional football power in what had been the smallest division, stays put in Division VI but now has some company, as five area schools — Waterloo, Rootstown, St. Thomas Aquinas, Smithville and Rittman — all drop from Division V.
Playoff schedule format
Some changes were also made to the playoff schedule. Divisions II, III, IV and VI will play their state regional and semifinal games on Friday nights at 7:30. Divisions I, V and VII will play on Saturday nights at 7.