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OHSAA announces adjustments to winter postseasons, will start ’21 football season a week early to accommodate expanded playoffs

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, January 14, 2021, 5:47 pm

The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Board of Directors meeting Wednesday provided a few notable changes for next year, as well as a number of changes for this year’s winter postseasons, with the pandemic leaving venue options up in the air. 

The 2021 OHSAA football season will start a week earlier, to allow for the playoff expansion announced back in May. The regular season begins on Aug. 20, and concludes on Oct. 23,w with six weeks of playoffs, rather than five. The top 12 teams in each regional qualify for the playoffs, increasing the number of qualifiers from 224 to 336, just shy of half of the total 709 teams that played 11-man football in 2020. 

The OHSAA staff informed the board of several postseason changes forced by regulations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic:

• The wrestling state tournament will not be held at Columbus’ Schottenstein Center, which cannot host the even this year (it is currently being used as a mass vaccination center). The OHSAA is looking for three Central Ohio high schools to each host a division. District and state tournaments will have split sessions, with seven weight classes competing at a time, followed by the other seven after a break. 

• Basketball regional and state tournament sites are yet to be determined, as the OHSAA doesn’t know which of the previously scheduled sites will be permitted to host events. The organization intends to use neutral sites for regionals. 

• The OHSAA also does not know if Nationwide Arena will be able to host the ice hockey state tournament, but intends to have the two Northeast Ohio districts both at the Brooklyn Recreation Center, because of the unavailability of Kent State’s facility. 

• The bowling tournament will remain at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl on Feb. 26-27 (D-II) and March 5-6 (D-I), but the number of qualifying bowlers is being reduced by two from eight to six. 

• The gymnastics tournament will still be at Hilliard Bradley High School on March 5-6, but the format will be adjusted, and the number of spectators will be limited. 

• Preliminaries for swimming will be eliminated from the swimming and diving tournament — which will still be held at Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium on Feb. 24-27 — to allow each division to be competed in one day. The boys and girls will alternate days, starting with D-II girls on Feb. 24, D-II boys Feb. 25, D-I girls on Feb. 26 and D-I boys on Feb. 27.