It was a big weekend for the sport of football, even with kickoff still at least three weeks away.
Friday saw high school football in Ohio modified to six games for the 2020 regular season, while Conference USA announced it was going forward with an 8-game conference schedule that could also include up to four non-conference opponents this fall.
Then, less than 24 hours later, the Mid-American Conference announced early Saturday that all fall sports were being postponed until spring — making the MAC the first FBS conference to opt out of play due to coronavirus concerns.
The first whammy came Friday afternoon as the Ohio High School Athletic Association released a new 6-game format that was meant to follow a recommendation by the Governor’s office to shorten the season due to concerns of a potential spike in early winter.
All teams will enter the playoffs beginning October 9 and the state championship games will be played no later than November 21 under the new guidelines.
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.”
All six Ohio football teams in the Ohio Valley Publishing area are currently re-evaluating their fall schedules … primarily to accommodate the needs within their respective conferences.
Both Meigs and River Valley are members of the 7-team Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division, so not every team in the league would be able to play a full TVC Ohio schedule due to an odd number of members in an even number of weeks.
Member schools of the TVC Ohio are having a meeting Monday to discuss what changes will be made to the regular season schedule.
Eastern, Southern and South Gallia — all members of the TVC Hocking Division — have lucked out in a way.
Both Wahama and Miller are out of the league this year, plus Federal Hocking was not going to participate in TVC Hocking football games this year.
The TVC Hocking had nine members this time a year ago, but now there are only six programs left competing in the league for football.
The local trio, Trimble, Waterford and Belpre should all be able to play a full conference tilt and still have one week available for a non-conference opponent.
Member schools of the TVC Hocking are hoping to have new regular season schedules by Tuesday.
Gallia Academy — the remaining OVP area school — is a member of the 8-team Ohio Valley Conference. It will be impossible for the Blue Devils to squeeze seven league games into a 6-week schedule, so expect at least one league team to be missing from the docket of each OVC school.
Member schools of the Ohio Valley Conference are having a meeting Monday to discuss what changes will be made to the regular season schedule.
Marshall will retain its 8-game Conference USA slate that was already in place for the 2020 campaign, plus be able to play up to four more games against non-conference opponents.
The Thundering Herd had already lost a regular season game against Pittsburgh and dropped another game with Ohio Saturday when the MAC postponed its season.
MU is expected to move back its season opener at East Carolina to sometime in early September. Marshall, as of now, still has Boise State remaining as a non-conference opponent.
With the MAC shutting down all fall sports on Saturday, the hope is that those programs can resume competition in the spring.
Half of the dozen member schools in the Mid-American Conference are located in Ohio.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.