Fanta’s Take: OHSAA’s two-region Division I football system should be embraced

by John Fanta ‘13

As announced by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, two regions will be formed out of a new “super” Division I. The Northern Region will have 35 teams and the Southern will contain 37. 16 playoff teams will come out of each region and the two regional champions will be determined in the fourth round of the playoffs and will advance to the state title.

The other six divisions (with the new Division VII) will contain a classic four-region system.

First, let’s look at the counties involved in the Northern Region: Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Summit, Trumbull, Mahoning, Stark, Union, Lucas, and Delaware counties. Looking at the Southern Region, Franklin County schools (which include Columbus) will be there along with the Cincinnati and Dayton schools.

Division I Northern Region schools: Saint Ignatius, Mentor, St. Edward, Austintown Fitch, Berea-Midpark, Brunswick, Canton McKinley, Cleveland Heights, Cuyahoga Falls, Delaware Hayes, Elyria, Euclid, Findlay, Glenoak, Green, Hudson, Lakewood, Lorain, Massillon Jackson, Massillon Perry, Marysville, Medina, Newark, North Canton Hoover, North Royalton, Olentangy Liberty, Shaker Heights, Stow, Solon, Strongsville, Toledo Whitmer, Wadsworth, Warren Harding, Westerville Central, and Youngstown East.
Notably, Glenville, Massillon, and Willoughby South are part of the group of schools that will be dropping from Division I to II.

Division I to Division II Schools: Amherst Steele, Avon Lake, Boardman, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Brush, East Tech, Eastlake North, Garfield Heights, Glenville, John Adams, John Marshall, Cleveland John F. Kennedy, Lincoln-West, Mayfield, Massillon, Nordonia, North Olmsted, North Ridgeville, Parma, Riverside, Rhodes, Twinsburg, Valley Forge, and Willoughby South.

No private schools in Northeast Ohio went down to Division II. The cutoff enrollment was 608, so that for the next two years, schools with grades 9-11 enrollment of 608 or more will stay with the big schools. The odd scenario that has some scratching their heads is that the regional finals will also be state semifinals, but in the grand scheme of things, there can’t be that much complaining. The two best teams are still going to be playing in December.

Those teams that have dropped from Division I to Division II have no room to complain about their positioning. For schools like Massillon and Glenville, the drop is not exactly comforting, but it is what it is. The powerhouses are still present, as Saint Ignatius is not really impacted. The Wildcats’ eight-game schedule is not sitting well with many due to the two open slots for this fall, but Coach Chuck Kyle is not getting wild over it. The Wildcats will be just fine, and this alignment looks as if it helps them.

The public-private split is out there, and the days are looming where something like that could happen. But I will say this to those schools who are adamant about it. The days of the public-private big time showdowns like Saint Ignatius – Mentor could be over. And so I ask, is it worth it? There are still issues with competitive balance with teams scheduling schools in Division I when they are in divisions below, but I find those match-ups to be refreshing. Youngstown Ursuline has formed a series with St. Edward, and it has brought much interest throughout the past years.

The definition of winning does not change with new alignments, but it will if there is a split. It may look nice on paper, but the eventual result is one that is missing out on the special showdowns between public and private schools.