And then there were seven.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Thursday that it will be adding a seventh tournament division in football, beginning in 2013.
"Adding a seventh division not only helps address the enrollment disparity in Division I, but it also will create 32 more tournament opportunities for student athletes, their schools and their communities, many of which have never or rarely experienced the playoffs," OHSAA Commissioner Daniel Ross said in a release. "The committee members believe that this is an issue unique to football, especially since not all schools qualify for the OHSAA football tournament."
The measure was approved by a 6-3 vote by OHSAA's board of directors during its meeting Thursday.
The new division will be at the top end of the enrollment scale. Currently in the six-division format, the schools are divisions of 120 schools on average. The complaint has come from schools in Division I where the current enrollment ranges from 494 males at the lower end of the bracket to 1,164 males at the top end.
In the new set up, Division I will drop to 72 schools, with the lower end of the enrollment scale averaging 600 males. The remaining six divisions will average 108 schools.
|With the OHSAA deciding Thursday to add another division to the football playoffs, most of the area football teams will likely moving down a division when the rule takes affect in 2013. Below is how it would look if it took effect this fall.|
|School||Enrollment*||Current Division||New Division|
|*Enrollment numbers are based on ninth through 11th grade males in their respective schools in Oct. 2010. Enrollment numbers are reassessed every two years.|
Every two years, enrollment is reassessed. What is counted is the male and female populations in ninth, 10th and 11th grades. The next count is slated for this October. Those numbers will be used to determine the divisions in all sports for the following two school years,which is why this rule won't take effect until 2013.
If the enrollment breakdown was put into place this fall, 10 of the area's 11 football teams would drop a division. The exception is Upper Sandusky, which would remain in Division IV.
There were a bevy of opinions on the new division being added from area football coaches.
"I don't think it's going to affect us where we go and where we've been," Columbian football coach Brian Colatruglio said. "We were a big (Division) III before and small (Division) II last year."
What Colatruglio doesn't like is how Division I schools have a better chance of making the playoffs than the remaining six divisions.
"Not really," Colatruglio said when asked if he liked the new rule. "I just don't see the logic where one division has 32 of 72 teams make the playoffs where the rest of us, 32 of 108 make the playoffs. You're going to have teams with losing records make the playoffs (in Division I)."
Colatruglio said a more fair idea would have been to divide the schools evenly across seven divisions.
But he is excited for those 32 more teams making the playoffs each year.
"Going to a seventh division is a positive thing and 32 more teams get to experience playoff football," Colatruglio said. "We're the only sport that doesn't have every team make the playoffs. It's one of the best experiences you can have in high school sports. You want to divide to seven divisions and add 32 more teams to the playoffs? That's a good thing."
Calvert football coach Todd Fox agrees with Colatruglio on the positives that come from adding more teams to the playoffs via another division.
"Adding some teams to the playoffs is a good thing, but it's watering down the tournament," Fox said. "All in all, it's going to cut down (the number of teams you compete against for a spot) and make it a step easier. But you still have to compete."
Like the Tornadoes, the new divisional format will keep the Senecas lodged in their new division with little hope of bouncing between divisions unless there is an enrollment spike.
The same can't be said for Buckeye Central, which would be one boy away from staying in Division VI if the division breakdowns were put into place this fall. Being that close to the division cut line is not great news to Ratliff.
"I don't like change. I'm someone who likes order," said Ratliff, whose team lost in the state final this past season. "If we're in one, I'd rather be in the same one all the time and get to know the schools and who's around you. I think that helps."
Aside from how it will affect his team personally, he said he sees both sides to the change.
"I think there's positives and negatives to both. I understand with the Division I schools there's a lot of mismatches with the number of kids compared to some of the smaller schools in Division I. You see that in other divisions as well," Ratliff said. "I don't want to see it too watered down."
He, like Colatruglio, said it should have been broken evenly.
"I think the even split is the better thing," Ratliff said. "But what are you going to do? Those guys get paid a lot of money to make those decisions."
The details of the plan have yet to be worked out. A committee made up of OHSAA board members and employees, along with school administrators and officers of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association will determine adjustments to the Harbin Computer Ratings, regional breakdowns and assignments for Division I and the logistics behind adding another state tournament game.
The other factor that may shift the teams is the competitive balance proposal that will go before the membership the first half of May. The proposal is similar to the one that was voted down last year, where schools would be placed into tournament divisions based on its sport-by-sport athletic count. That proposed count would take into consideration enrollment, a school's enrollment boundaries, its open enrollment policy, socioeconomic factor and tradition.
This is the first time the OHSAA has expanded the number of football tournament divisions since 1994, when a sixth division was added. Five years later, the number of tournament qualifiers in each division expanded from 16 to 32. When the tournament first began in 1972, there were three football tournament divisions, and expansion to five divisions occurred in 1980.