COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio High School Athletic Association has announced new regional alignments for the upcoming football playoffs after 664 schools opted in for the postseason. In a normal season, 224 schools qualify for the playoffs, with eight schools from each of 28 regions earning a bid through the OHSAA’s Harbin computer ratings system, which will not be used this season.
Originally, there were 709 schools that indicated they planned to contend for a playoff bid this season playing 11-man football, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some schools to start their seasons later or end early. Based on the recommendation from Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health, the OHSAA shortened the football season.
PLAYOFF SCHEDULE AND FORMAT
On September 29 and 30, the head coaches in each region will vote to seed the teams in their region. The OHSAA will then place teams on brackets on October 1. With various numbers of schools in each region, many of the higher seeds will have a first-round bye in most regions.
Once the brackets are set, the top team on the bracket of the specific game will have the first opportunity to host the game throughout the regional playoffs. If the top team on the bracket cannot host, the other team will host the game. The OHSAA will determine sites for the state semifinals and state championships.
If a team is unable to play a playoff game on the assigned day according to the bracket, its opponent will advance on the bracket.
Playoff games will be held on Friday and Saturday nights beginning October 9-10. Divisions, I, II, III and VII will play on Friday nights. Divisions IV, V and VI will play on Saturday nights.
As a reminder, schools eliminated from the OHSAA playoffs or that choose not to enter the OHSAA playoffs have the option to schedule additional regular season contests through Saturday, November 14 (maximum of 10 regular season contests permitted).
Spectrum News 1 is the official television partner of the OHSAA and will select several playoff games each weekend to televise live. Only Spectrum can provide live television coverage of OHSAA football playoff games. All other television broadcasts can start at 10:00 p.m. the same day as the game, with rights fees determined by the OHSAA. Live video streaming will be permitted for games not selected by Spectrum News 1 at rates set by the OHSAA, which will be announced later in September.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors has announced the selection of Doug Ute as the OHSAA’s next Executive Director, making the former coach, teacher, athletic administrator, principal and superintendent the OHSAA’s 11th leader in its 113-year history.
Ute (pronounced “yoot”) is taking the OHSAA post after spending the last 20 years as a school superintendent, including nine years at Marion Elgin Local Schools and the last 11 years at Newark City Schools. He also coached and taught at Noble Local Schools in eastern Ohio and Buckeye Central High School, which is near his hometown of Bellville in north central Ohio.
Last spring, Ute announced that he was stepping down from his post at Newark to become Deputy Director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA), which is the state’s superintendent’s association. Instead of serving Ohio schools at BASA, he will be doing so from the OHSAA. He takes over for Interim Executive Director Bob Goldring, who is the OHSAA’s Senior Director of Operations.
“I have always thought like a former coach and athletic director, and the OHSAA is where I want to be,” said Ute. “I am humbled to be selected by the Board of Directors for this position and join a great team at the OHSAA office. We are all aware of the uncertainties that are before us due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I know that together we can and will be stronger together. My focus has always been on helping students become better people, and athletics are such an important part in that. That is true now more than ever. I can’t wait to get started and help lead our member schools.”
At Newark, Ute helped create the Social, Emotional and Academic Success (SEAS) program that includes counselors, teachers and staff to discuss ways to help students succeed in life. While at Newark, a district of 6,500 students, he expanded the free lunch program, made free breakfast available to all students, and put a strong emphasis on student and family social and emotional health. The school district responded with its highest-ever graduation rate and a renewed sense of pride in the city and school district.
“We are excited to have someone lead our organization with Doug’s experience, both in working with student-athletes and with his experience in the workings of the OHSAA,” said Jeff Cassella, President of the OHSAA Board of Directors and Athletic Director at Mentor High School. “The Board of Directors is confident that Doug’s leadership style and experience is a great fit to lead the OHSAA through this unique year.”
Ute began his career in 1988 as a basketball coach and part-time business teacher at Noble Local Schools (Shenandoah High School) in Sarahsville in eastern Ohio. He then went to Buckeye Central in New Washington as a teacher and coach, while also serving as the athletic administrator. In 1996 he became the principal at Marion Elgin and then took over as superintendent in 2000 at Elgin, a district of 1,500 students. Ute became superintendent in Newark in 2009. He served on the OHSAA’s Central District Athletic Board in 2008-09 and has been the Central District’s secretary since the 2011-12 school year.
Ute was a standout student-athlete at Clear Fork High School, graduating in 1980, and played basketball at Ashland University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. He would later return to Ashland to earn a master’s degree in school administration, a graduate teaching degree in business, a principal’s license and a superintendent’s license.
Ute and his wife, Kory, have four children and eight grandchildren.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – With the high school football regular-season set to begin this week, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has provided details and reminders regarding team protocols, game management changes and the new playoff format.
There were 709 member schools originally planning to play 11-man football in Ohio this fall, but approximately 60 schools have either paused or cancelled football due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On August 18, Governor Mike DeWine asked the OHSAA to create participation opportunity for those schools that don’t play sports this fall, but it is unlikely that additional tournaments would be held in the spring for fall sports.
“Our schools are so excited to get the season started and they are taking ownership of the new safety guidelines so they can have a season,” said Beau Rugg, OHSAA Senior Director of Sport Management and Officiating. “As we saw in the spring, sports can be shut down due to COVID-19 spread, so our schools, coaches and student-athletes want to do everything they can to play as many games this fall as possible. Teams must continue to follow the safety protocols that have been put in place, including wearing a facial covering, staying 6-feet apart and washing their hands.”
The new ODH order permits contact sports, including the fall sports of field hockey, soccer and football, to move forward with gamesagainst other schools. The Governor confirmed support for Ohio’s coaches to inspire their student-athletes to continue following safety precautions so that all sports can be played. See the full release.
SEASON SCHEDULE AND FORMAT
At the recommendation of the Governor’s Office, the OHSAA announced on August 7 that the season would end earlier than previously scheduled and that every team could enter the playoffs, which will begin October 9-10. The Harbin computer ratings will not be used this season. See the full release
GAME MANAGEMENT CHANGES
• Up to 60 players may dress for games.
• The team box on the sideline has been extended from the 10-yard line to the opposite 10-yard line so that coaches and players can adhere to social distancing guidelines.
• All coaches, players, medical staff, game workers, media and spectators must wear a facial covering at all times, other than the 22 players on the field of play.
• The OHSAA recommends that halftimes be shortened to 10 minutes (plus three minutes for warm-up) and that team members be kept socially distanced outside their locker room. The host school will determine the specific length of halftime.
• Timeouts may be extended to two minutes in length
• Officials will have limited contact with the ball. The players on the offensive team will handle the ball and take it with them to their huddle. The umpire will place an orange bean bag at the spot where the ball will be snapped.
• Each player should have his/her own water bottle.
• Players and coaches from the visiting team should not use a locker room, therefore they should arrive already fully or partially dressed in their game uniform.
• Pregame handshakes (captains and officials) and postgame handshakes lines are not permitted.
• Schools must inform the OHSAA of their intention to participate in the playoffs by September 17.
• New playoff regions will be drawn on September 18. Divisional assignments will not change.
• Schools may withdraw from the playoffs without penalty until September 24.
• Playoff regional seeding will be determined by a vote of the coaches in each region during the week of September 28. Depending on the number of teams in each bracket, it is possible that the top seed(s) may have a first-round bye.
• All playoff contests through the regional semifinals (and possibly the regional finals) will be hosted by the higher seeded team.
• Playoff games will be held on Friday and Saturday nights beginning October 9-10. Divisions, I, II, III and VII will play on Friday nights. Divisions IV, V and VI will play on Saturday nights.
• The number of playoff rounds will be dependent upon the number of schools entering the playoffs in each division. It is expected that the state championship games will be held November 13-14 and/or November 20-21.
• Schools eliminated from the OHSAA playoffs or that choose not to enter the OHSAA playoffs have the option to schedule additional regular season contests through Saturday, November 14 (maximum of 10 regular season contests permitted).
Spectrum News 1 will continue with its OHSAA Friday Night Lights Game of the Week live telecasts, which includes scholarship contributions to a male and female student-athlete from the host school (or two males if the school is all-male).
On August 4, the OHSAA announced that the host school now makes the decision on all requests for live video of regular-season games, including media. See the full release
By order of the Ohio Department of Health, only 15 percent of the stadium’s permanent seating capacity may be admitted into the game. Players, coaches, officials, cheerleaders, band members, game workers and media do not count toward that 15 percent capacity.
INSPECTORS TO ATTEND GAMES
Governor DeWine has asked the OHSAA to assemble a large team of inspectors who will attend games to ensure that all safety protocols are being followed. The inspectors, which will be paid by the Governor’s Office, will work with the host site’s compliance officer and/or Athletic Director and utilize a checklist of items. The intent of the inspector program is to educate those at the game regarding proper safety protocols, but the OHSAA may enact penalties through Bylaw 11 if necessary.
2021 SCHEDULE NOTES
On May 22, the OHSAA announced that the 2021 season will start a week earlier and the playoffs will be expanded to include 12 teams from each region, and thus span six rounds. The top four seeds in each region will have a first-round bye. See the full release
Practice Start Date: August 1 (additional details TBA)
A day following Governor Mike DeWine’s approval of contact sports (i.e., field hockey, football and soccer), Bob Goldring, the interim Director of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, met with the media via a Zoom conference call. Litter Media was on the call.
The option to play in the spring creates a new issue for the OHSAA. When asked if there would be a playoff for schools opting for spring and if the fall season were to be interrupted, if those playing would be able to play in the new spring arrangement. It was just one of the topics covered.
Goldring says don’t look for championships for a spring season for the sports which otherwise would play in fall. “Our intention isn’t to offer another tournament opportunity.” As long as they’re able to hold their post season during the fall season, those would be the champions for the sport. “We don’t know what lies ahead with COVID or what lies ahead with what opportunities we’re going to provide. Our main focus is this fall, providing our normal tournament opportunities as they’ve been offered in the past. We want to encourage schools as much as they feel it’s safe and they feel it’s reasonable to go ahead and participate this fall.
On a conference call Tuesday night with coaches and athletic administrators, the Governor reminded the schools there would be limited spectators, permitting only four family members or loved ones close to each player, in addition to cheerleaders, the marching bands and coaches. When asked about the same for those limitations for the families of cheerleaders and band members, Goldring said they were waiting the Health Director’s Order which had yet to be released for review to be able to give a direct answer to those participants. The capacity for a school’s permanent seating will also factor into who will be permitted as spectators.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that he will sign a new Ohio Department of Health order that permits contact sports, including the fall sports of field hockey, soccer and football, to move forward with games against other schools. The Governor confirmed support for Ohio’s coaches to inspire their student-athletes to continue following safety precautions so that all sports can be played.
Field hockey, soccer and football now join the OHSAA’s previously approved fall sports of girls and boys golf, girls tennis, girls volleyball, and girls and boys cross country. With the majority of high schools in Ohio wanting to play sports this fall, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has been working with the Governor’s Office and the Ohio Department of Health toward a new health order that contains modifications from previous orders.
“I hope that the desire to have a season will inspire our young people, our athletes, our student-athletes, 24/7 to be as careful as they can,” said Governor DeWine during his press conference Tuesday. “I hope also that our coaches will use this an opportunity to focus on helping these young people understand what really is at stake. If they are going to be able to play, that they are going to have to do everything they can to keep COVID out of their team.”
“The OHSAA is moving forward because we want kids to have an opportunity to participate, and the Governor’s Office is providing that opportunity and a chance,” said Bob Goldring, OHSAA Interim Executive Director. “So for that we are most appreciative. It’s important to remember that our student-athletes have been practicing and training with others for weeks and even months, and it has gone well. So, we believe they deserve the chance to move forward, and that the high school space is also different than the collegiate space.”
The OHSAA staff has developed sport-specific modifications and recommendations for schools when conducting interscholastic competition. Links to these sport-specific documents were originally included in the July 22 memo when we released the Return to Play Recommendations document. Links to updated sport-specific requirements, modifications and recommendations are posted at: https://ohsaa.org/Home/OHSAA-COVID-19-Correspondence
“COVID-19 certainly has created a risk factor, and that is something on which each family has to decide for their student, and each local school district has to make decisions on moving forward based on all the information they have been presented,” Goldring continued. “But we also believe our student-athletes, coaches and school administrators – in education-based programs – are suited to be the best advocates for safety, strongly promoting and following mandates and recommendations to wear facial coverings, stay socially distanced and so forth. Our coaches, especially, are role models to so many of our student-athletes. So hopefully our student-athletes will follow their lead and guidance, especially when they talk to students about what to consider away from school.”
“The driving force that will inspire our young men, our young women, to make the right decisions in their lives 24/7 that will inspire them to have the best chance they can to play their sport,” DeWine continued. “To the coaches, you, in a normal year, inspire, you mentor, you instruct, you instill discipline and self-discipline in your student-athletes. For all of that, we are very grateful for what you do. You make a lot of sacrifices, work long hours and you inspire our kids. We thank you very much for that. But this year, it’s going to take more. It’s going to be inspiring them in regards to the goal of keeping COVID out of their team.”
OHSAA fall sports seasons as scheduled to begin as follows:
Friday, Aug. 21:soccer and field hockey
Monday, Aug. 24: volleyball, cross country and football
Note: golf and girls tennis seasons have already started
COVID-19 General Guidance (Including Mandates and Recommended Best Practices)
As Governor DeWine also noted, the Governor’s Office and Department of Health are close to finalizing a new Health Director’s Order. With that comes two separate mandates and recommended best practices documents for schools to follow for competitions, and the OHSAA could issue consequences for the violation of these requirements as prescribed in Bylaw 11, Penalties. The mandates and recommended best practices are related to many of the same mandates and protocols already in place for many other sectors as they relate to symptom assessments; facial coverings; social distancing; cleaning and sanitizing, and confirmed COVID-19 cases/exposure to the virus. The final versions of those two documents will be sent to schools on Wednesday.
The Governor understands that interscholastic sports are different than other forms of competition because we are education-based and are able to implement best safety practices and have structure in place for dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. So, if we want our students to have the privilege of competing in interscholastic athletics, it’s going to be up to all of us to make sure all mandates and protocols are being followed. We all need to be diligent and be disciplined.
Capacity Limitations/Students Dressing for Contests Limitations/Bands Restrictions
Spectator capacity for our events will be limited, with the specific details to be listed in the guidance pieces. As Governor DeWine mentioned today, an emphasis will be on allowing families and loved ones to see students participate. In addition, OHSAA requirements, based on guidance from the Governor’s Office, is for schools to limit the number of players dressing for contests. The limits are 60 in football; 22 in soccer and field hockey, and 15 in volleyball. In addition, the OHSAA, based on guidance from the Governor’s Office, is limiting marching and/or pep bands to performing only at home contests.
Questions and Answers on Why Are We Moving Forward
Originally developed as part of the July 31 Administrator Update when the OHSAA affirmed its position of starting our practices as planned, the OHSAA has updated a series of questions and answers related to why we are moving forward with our seasons. All scenarios have been discussed and, in making its decision, the OHSAA has had great collaboration with the Governor’s Office; Ohio Department of Health; the National Federation of State High School Associations; our colleagues at other state high school athletics/activities associations; members of the OHSAA’s Joint Advisory Committee on Sports Medicine, and members of the Governor’s Sports League Advisory Group. A series of questions and answers are posted at: https://ohsaaweb.blob.core.windows.net/files/Sports/2020/OHSAAReturnToPlayQA.pdf
Clarity on “Spring Seasons”
As Governor DeWine noted today, the OHSAA is prepared to remove the impediments in our bylaws and regulations that would otherwise preclude schools from playing fall sports in the spring. In other words, schools that have opted out of fall sports participation due to the pandemic – meaning the school has not participated in fall sports during the currently defined fall season – will have an opportunity to play their sports in the spring. However, a task force will be needed to work with our staff to create certain parameters to see what those spring sports opportunities look like. As the pandemic has proved, this is an evolving situation, so more details will be shared with the membership when appropriate.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Following a recommendation this week from the Governor’s Office to shorten the season due to concerns that COVID-19 may spike in early winter, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Friday that if high school football games are approved by the Governor, all teams will enter the playoffs beginning October 9 and the state championship games will be played no later than November 21.
The OHSAA Board of Directors, which assisted OHSAA staff to create the proposal and approved it by a 9-0 vote, considers this a win-win situation for all schools since it will not matter how many games each team has played leading up to the playoffs. Instead of the computer ratings system determining which teams qualify for the playoffs, the coaches in each region will conduct a tournament seed meeting the week of September 28 to form the regional bracket, similar to the process in other OHSAA team sports.
Schools may keep their first six previously scheduled games, but all regular-season football contracts are now voidable by either school, especially in the event that conferences redo their league schedules to fit into the first six weeks. In addition, the OHSAA will determine new playoff regions in September. Schools that are eliminated from the playoffs may continue to schedule regular-season games up until November 14.
Schools that have currently paused sports could still begin their season in September or early October and compete in the playoffs. Schools are not required to enter the playoffs if they would rather play regular-season games up until November 14.
“To both ensure we can offer students the opportunity to participate in education-based athletes but do so with their best interests in mind, we believe this modified plan offers a positive solution by addressing many of the concerns of our member schools,” said Jeff Cassella, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors and athletic administrator at Mentor High School. “Those that are able to start their seasons on time will be able to do so. Those that are starting later can still have a season. Add in the option of all schools entering the playoffs and the possibility of schools still being able to play 10 regular season contests, and this plan is helpful to virtually all of our schools.”
The highest number of responses to one of the questions posed of superintendents, principals and athletic administrators in a recent OHSAA membership survey indicated that nearly 60 percent (890 of 1,498 respondents) favored either reducing the regular season and maintaining full OHSAA tournaments or maintaining the full regular season and maintaining full OHSAA tournaments.
A decision on spectators at contact sports has not yet been made, however the OHSAA believes that at a minimum parents should be permitted to attend.
As a reminder, four of the OHSAA’s fall sports have been determined to be low-contact by the Governor’s Office and thus are permitted to have contests with other schools, including golf, tennis, volleyball and cross country. The OHSAA’s fall sports of field hockey, soccer and football have been determined to be high-contact sports and the OHSAA continues to work with the Governor’s Office and the Ohio Department of Health toward modified protocols for those three sports to have contests.
• Regular-season games will begin the week of August 24 (same regular-season starting date).
• All teams eligible to enter the OHSAA playoffs. New regions will be determined in September.
• Number of playoff rounds dependent upon the number of schools entering the playoffs in each division. Coaches in each region will seed all playoff teams in the region to form a bracket, similar to other OHSAA sports.
• Schools eliminated from the OHSAA playoffs or that choose not to enter the OHSAA playoffs have the option to schedule additional regular season contests through Saturday, November 14 (maximum of 10 regular season contests permitted).
• Regular season Week 1: Week of August 24
• Regular season Week 2: Week of August 31
• Regular season Week 3: Week of September 7
• Regular season Week 4: Week of September 14
• Regular season Week 5: Week of September 21
• Regular season Week 6: Week of September 28
• Playoffs begin Friday, October 9
• State finals end no later than Saturday, Nov. 21
Other Playoff Details
• Playoff seeding will be via a vote of the coaches the week of September 28 (Harbin Ratings suspended for 2020 season)
• All playoff contests through the regional semifinals (and possibly the regional finals) will be hosted by the higher seeded team
• Schools must commit to participate in the playoffs by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, September 17
• Playoff regions will be drawn on Friday, September 18
• Schools may withdraw from the playoffs without penalty until Thursday, September 24
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a cloud of uncertainty for contact sports in Ohio, with the suspension of school versus school scrimmages. The OHSAA continues to work with the Governor’s Office and Ohio Department of Health on guidelines for safe competition for teams.
In the meantime, Litter Media Sports takes a look back at its football “Game of the Week” features from previous seasons. Find the links for the games below.
Should the 2020 Football season commence, the Litter Media cameras will plan to be there. While at the Litter Media YouTube channel, click the SUBSCRIBE button… it’s FREE, and click the bell icon to receive notification when a new Litter Media video is loaded.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association released a memo to administrators via twitter Friday to push ahead with practices for fall sports beginning Saturday, August 1st.
That means low/non‐contact sports and contact sports will be permitted to begin official practices tomorrow (August 1) as had been previously announced. Additional details on the fall sports seasons are below.
“It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward,” said Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors and superintendent of the Noble Local Schools in Sarahsville. “And with that, we believe our member schools provide our student‐athletes with the safest possible environment to return to play and that our school programs are the best avenue to help students learn lifelong lessons and provide social, emotional and physical benefits that other programs cannot. Moving forward allows those students to continue to be engaged with their school coaches and teammates. Membership data also supports this decision.
“If we were to delay, our students will find opportunities to compete in sports through non‐school programs that may not be focused on safety and are not education‐based,” Leffingwell said. “Should data on COVID‐19 change and/or the Governor’s Office makes changes to our plan, we have flexibility that would allow us to look at implementing other models for our seasons.” Low/Non‐Contact Sports (Golf, Girls Tennis, Volleyball)
Official practices may begin on Saturday, August 1st.
School vs. school scrimmages and/or contests will follow per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations.
Golf – 1 scrimmage permitted any time during the season; first contest August 5th
Girls Tennis – 1 scrimmage permitted after practice begins and prior to first match; first contest August 7th
Volleyball – 5 scrimmages and 1 preview permitted after practice begins; first contest August 21st
Official practices begin on Saturday August 1st with the normal acclimatization period in place.
No school vs. school scrimmages are permitted
School vs school contest will follow their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations with a target date of the week of Monday, August 24th (Note: This sate is subject to change and subject to the approval from the Governor’s Office/Ohio Department of Health and with the stipulation that COVID-19 testing will not be required).
OTHER CONTACT SPORTS (SOCCER, FIELD HOCKEY, CROSS COUNTRY):
Practices will begin on Saturday August 1st with the normal acclimatization period in place for cross country.
No school vs. school scrimmages are permitted in soccer or field hockey
School vs school contest will follow their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations with a target date of the week of Friday, August 21st, for soccer and field hockey and Monday, August 24th for cross country. (Note: This sate is subject to change and subject to the approval from the Governor’s Office/Ohio Department of Health and with the stipulation that COVID-19 testing will not be required).
If contact sports are not approved for school vs. school competition by Friday, September 4th, fall contact sports and remaining winter and spring sports will move to a condensed schedule that will take place between mid-December and the end of June. Fall non-contact sports would move forward as scheduled.
If the fall seasons begin and , for some reason, are stopped but then resume, the OHSAA has plans to move to a modified fall sports season.
If contact sports are approved for school vs. school competition, the OHSAA is prepared to set COVID-19-related requirements for schools to follow for competitions as requested by the Governor’s Office. The OHSAA will govern and issue consequences for the violation of these requirements as prescribed in OHSAA Bylaw 11, Penalties.
Conversations with the Governor’s Office/Ohio Department of Health continue regarding the status of field hockey and/or cross country being placed into the low/non-contact category. The membership will be updated if that changes for either or both sports.
The OHSAA continues with conversations with the Governor’s Office on its plans to ensure we are in concert.
The first of Ohio’s high school non-contact sports competitions begin the first full week of August, but the future for others may be determined late this week.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association reports work continues with Governor Mike DeWine’s office on plans for contact sports. The OHSAA tweeted a status update Tuesday evening, reminding participants associated with fall non-contact sports, golf, tennis and volleyball contests are permitted but was less definitive with the those listed as contact sports.
In his Tuesday news conference, Governor Mike DeWine addressed interscholastic sports. “We are living in a period of time where we don’t know what our future is” said DeWine. “Parents are making tough choices, and these choices are only going to get more difficult if we don’t get hold of this virus. Let’s get ahold of this virus.”
It’s believed DeWine may have more to say regarding sports in his news conference Thursday.
The state pulled the plug on OHSAA sanctioned sports in mid-March and cancelled Ohio’s spring sports in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.