The state football playoffs are expanding to seven divisions in 2013.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Thursday it has decided to add an additional division — making Division I consist of the top 10 percent of schools. This would put 72 schools in the state’s top division, according to enrollment figures from 2011-2012.
Divisions II to VII will be divided evenly, with approximately 108 schools in each division.
The OHSAA says it made the change in an effort to level the playing field in Division I. And in the process, it could see an increase in money for its organization and its member schools.
The change will affect 38 out of the 79 football-playing schools in the Akron Beacon Journal coverage area.
There are 716 schools in Ohio that field football teams, with 32 teams reaching the playoffs in each division. This will mean 224 will qualify for the state tournament.
OHSAA Commissioner Daniel B. Ross said the decision was approved by the OHSAA’s board of directors by a 6-3 vote on Thursday.
Currently, the six OHSAA football divisions are comprised of an average of 120 schools per division.
Under the change, Brunswick, Medina, GlenOak, Jackson, Stow, Canton McKinley, Hudson, North Canton Hoover, Perry and Wadsworth will remain in Division I. Cuyahoga Falls, Massillon, Nordonia, Green and Twinsburg will drop from Division I to Division II.
“I still think the same problems will exist,” Cuyahoga Falls coach Mike Miller said. “It doesn’t really alter a lot of the bigger schools. I think some of the smaller schools that have to face parochial schools in Division IV and Division V will not be totally happy. I don’t think this takes into account the aspect that people were complaining about.”
Akron Public Schools’ Firestone, Ellet and Garfield will remain Division II, and North and Buchtel will remain Division III. Kenmore and East will drop to Division III.
“I like the idea that there are more teams that can get into the playoffs,” Firestone coach Tim Flossie said. “The way it stands now you can play a weaker schedule and go 8-2 and get in the playoffs. Some of those teams can get in that maybe aren’t very good, and then you have those blowouts in the first and second round.
“You have to play where they put you to play. It would be interesting to see Massillon in Division II. The addition of them and a lot of other schools will make Division II that much tougher.”
St. Vincent-St. Mary and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy will drop to Division IV, which doesn’t bother St. V-M coach Dan Boarman.
“I know that it has been a major question amongst the administrators and the coaches about the disproportion within Division I,” Boarman said. “There is a disproportion with some Division I schools having over 1,000 boys and some Division I schools having around 500 or so boys. I don’t know if there is a simple way to fix that. The way I look at it is you have to play good schools to be state champions. We will play whoever they tell us to play.”
Archbishop Hoban will remain Division III and be joined by Walsh Jesuit, which drops a division.
The plan for adding an additional division was in response to a concern by some OHSAA member schools about the enrollment disparity that exists in Division I, where the current range is 494 boys at the lower end of the division to 1,164 at the top.
Based on current enrollment data, the lower end of Division I would increase to 600 boys. Committee meetings were held to address the issue and the recommendation to add a seventh division came from the committee.
Under the new decision, Wadsworth would be in Division I by just five boys, while Cuyahoga Falls would be in Division II by 30 boys.
“I think it is good as far as the bigger schools are concerned,” Archbishop Hoban coach Ralph Orsini said. “I don’t think it affects a whole lot of schools in the smaller divisions.
‘‘The biggest issue is that you have some Division I schools that are so big and they are competing against smaller Division I schools.
“With us, whether we are a II or a III, I don’t think it will matter much. We know we will face a lot of good teams in either division.”
Another competitive balance proposal is still being discussed with regard to public and parochial schools.
“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,” Ross said. “The committee members believe that this is an issue unique to football, especially since not all schools qualify for the OHSAA football tournament.”
Barberton and Copley are the other Summit County schools remaining in Division II.
Revere, Coventry, Tallmadge and Springfield are Summit County schools joining Division III with holdover Norton.
Woodridge and Manchester will each drop a division to IV and V, respectively.
“I think it is a great move on the OHSAA’s part,” Walsh coach Gerry Rardin said. “I think it really addresses the biggest disparity and that existed in Division I. There was too big of a disparity between the top and bottom of Division I.
‘‘I also think it is real positive to get more teams and kids into the playoffs.”
Mogadore is one of three area schools slated to play in Division VII.