This week is the first of the Ohio high school football season.
And when that first football kicks off the 2020 season, things will be very different—and not all the changes are directly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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From a new man at the top to top recruits taking the bench, this season promises to be different than anything you’ve seen before.
What’s new this year?
- The man in charge: In early July, OHSAA parted ways with executive director Jerry Snodgrass and replaced him, at least on an interim basis, with Bob Goldring. Goldring is an Ohio State grad. He served as a sports information officer at several colleges before joining OHSAA in a similar role in 1995. In 2005, he was made an assistant commissioner.
- Broadcast rights: Prior to 2020, football teams could only air live video of games on school-owned media outlets. The thought was this protected ticket revenue. Now teams are able to sell the rights to broadcast games to local television stations or websites.
- Stars sitting out: This is not the first year that a highly regarded football prospect has chosen to sit out a season. Now a freshman with the Buckeyes, Mookie Cooper essentially gave up playing as a senior in high school in order to enroll at Ohio State early, for instance. (Read the full details of that situation here.) COVID-19 is accelerating this trend, however, and one of the nation’s top recruits, Pickerington North’s Jack Sawyer is among those electing not to play this year to focus on training for his time with the Scarlet and Gray.
- Mostly empty stadiums: Obviously, to limit the spread of coronavirus, high schools are being asked to limit crowds to the family and loved ones of the athletes.
- A different looking game: There weren’t many rules changes planned for football this year before the COVID-19 pandemic, but after the disease struck, the game needed revamping. Just a few examples? Policies are in place to try to limit halftime and extend timeouts. Mask wearing is required for non-participants. Everyone will have their own water bottle, and there won’t be a pre- or post-game handshake.
- New playoff format: The OHSAA Board of Directors unanimously approved a shortened six-game high school football season to start Aug. 24. Then all teams will qualify for the playoffs with state finals to wrap up by Nov. 21. Teams don’t have to participate in the postseason, and if they don’t, they can play four additional regular-season games. They also don’t need to play the entire regular season to qualify for the playoffs.