HS Sports’ post-season planning for the next two weekends doesn’t make sense from any angle

There are a variety of ways to express confusion on social media.

It could be the thinking emoji or any number of memes.

You might all be needed as you ponder what we’re going to be doing this weekend in postseason planning for high school sports.

Because from any angle – supportive, contrary, or practical – it doesn’t make sense.

It’s district football and volleyball week, regional cross country week – and of course it’s the venerable Football Week 11, the opening round of the playoffs.

In Year 2 of the 16-team expanded playoff format – and we won’t be venturing down that path again because it won’t do any good – it would make sense to maximize the 224-game weekend window for impact with our most prominent sport.

If football playoff expansion is really about “experience,” then be sensible about what’s coming | opinion

For as long as any of us can remember, select divisions have played on Fridays and others on Saturdays.

After all, they will be again this year. Just not yet.

Because the first two rounds of the football postseason are all played on Friday evenings.

This decision was made without a final public statement from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

The issue first came to light at its special meeting of the Board of Directors on March 19.

The transcript reads: “Director Beau Rugg presented revisions to the 2022 OHSAA Football Regulations and asked for their approval. Most of the changes concerned dates. … The other key recommendation is that all first-round and regional quarter-final tournament games for all divisions be played on Fridays when the higher-seeded teams act as hosts. Motion by Scott Reeves, second to Ryan Fitzgerald, to approve proposed 2022 football regulations. Motion accepted, 7-0.

That recommendation was approved on June 9: “Changes to the 2022 Football Tournament Regulations were also presented to the Board and Mr Rugg asked for these to be approved as well. Along with date changes and changes made for clarity, it was noted that everything is in the first round and regional quarterfinals matches will be played on Fridays (October 28 and November 4), with Divisions I, II, III and V on Fridays at play regional semifinals and finals and state semifinals; and Divisions IV, VI and VII play Saturdays for regional semifinals and finals and state semifinals.”

So if we have more qualifying teams in an expanded format, it “has to” be over one night. But if we have fewer teams as the postseason moves further into focus, will we go back to two nights?

A football game in Ohio will be played out of necessity this Saturday. So you have 223 playoff games going at the same time.

Not only has this recommendation been approved for this year according to the calendar in the OHSAA Football Regulations, this will also be the establishment for 2023 and 2024.

For a few days, I would think about every angle I could think of, off and on – sometimes out loud to the point of dismay without anyone being in the room.

Let’s say it’s the “football is king” argument that there’s nothing more important in Ohio than high school football, and everything else has to honor that philosophy.

If that’s true – and that’s undoubtedly the case, even for me as a passionate niche sports supporter – you’d seemingly want to get as many fans as possible to games to make a profit, and regardless of the amount those teams and communities earn from that.

But it’s not just about any community. There are certainly fans who prefer the ability to watch multiple games – another school is their alma mater, they have a relative on another team, they have an affinity for a particular program, etc.

Playing all games simultaneously over the next two weekends eliminates that potential.

Let’s say it’s marketing – ie it’s Friday night the High School Football Night.

OK … then play all games in all rounds on Friday, except for the state finals, which of course cannot be managed logistically in the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. But we return to the regional semifinals again on Fridays and Saturdays.

Let’s say it’s the state of Ohio. Not everyone, but many people love their buckeyes and don’t want a clash with the OSU kickoff, especially when it becomes difficult to find staff to work on the games.

However, in in-season segments, Ohio State seasons are TBD. For example, after this weekend at Penn State and the following weekend at Northwestern kicking off at noon, the next two games are TBD, as are others that have preceded them. Although the dynamic has changed with the new media rights deal, Big Ten schools generally do not play on Saturday nights after November 1st.

I like the Buckeyes too. But are they such a sacred cow that even the possibility of a Saturday night kickoff in early November means high school football can not play on Saturday night?

Let’s assume it’s a nod to fall sports outside of football to get their own stage on Saturday.

That limelight doesn’t necessarily get spread. All girls soccer and DI and some D-IV volleyball district finals are held on Thursday. Cross country is, as it has to be, during the day. Boys football has two of its divisions, barring necessary game changes, which start at 11am and Tues at 2pm. The only suspension on Saturday night is D-II and D-III volleyball.

If it were a clearly articulated initiative like, “Let’s have the girls’ athletic district finals on Saturday prime time,” I’d be all for it. But it is not.

All this also does not take into account the officials and the well-documented deficiency.

Soccer playoffs are meant to be the best of the best in their craft, with them acting too, not just the teams.

Undeniably, that won’t be the case for every football game at once. We’d be lying if we didn’t realize that facet could be a factor this weekend, despite everyone’s best intentions.

Whichever way you look at it, the planning for this weekend just doesn’t add up.

Unfortunately, I think we’re going to discover this the hard way.

And no emoji or meme will suffice to sum it up in its entirety.


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