For the first time since 1999, the OHSAA will be tinkering with the format under which member football schools compete, as Thursday the organization voted 6-3 to add a seventh division starting in 2013.
The OHSAA doubled the number of playoff teams in each division from 16 to 32 in 1999. Five years before that, a sixth division was added. There were originally three divisions when postseason play began in 1972, and two more were added in 1980.
The top 10 percent of schools based on enrollment will be placed in Division I and the other 644 schools divided evenly among the other six divisions. There will still be 32 schools that will qualify for the postseason.
Tribune Chronicle file
Warren G. Harding’s LeShun Daniels (28) carries the ball through the Fitch defense last August in Austintown. The Falcons defeated the Raiders 28-7. The Ohio Athletic Association announced it will expand the football divisions from six to seven in 2013. This will most likely keep Harding in Division I.
Under the current setup which will be in effect for the upcoming season Warren G. Harding is about a mid-sized Division I school. When the changes begin next year, the Raiders will be among the smallest Division I schools.
The current enrollment numbers for a school to be Division I are 494 to 1,164 boys. Under the new format, the numbers will be 600 to 1,164.
"At those numbers we'll still in the upper tier (Division I)," Harding athletic director Paul Trina said. "Our enrollment is about 650 for grades 10 through 12. We'll be one of the smallest Division I schools if those numbers hold true."
Using the current two-year enrollment numbers (so the following figures may change), the range for Division II starting in 2013 would be 410 to 599; for Division III 288 to 409; Division IV 216 to 287; Division V 159 to 215; Division VI 114 to 158, and Division VII 30 to 111.
"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 B. 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."
While Harding will remain Division I, at the other end of the spectrum is Windham, which has competed in Division VI every season since 1994 (other than 2000 and 2001). With an approximate boys enrollment of 100, Windham would drop into Division VII, which is just fine with coach Brian Kiser.
"I think it can only help any of us in the lower levels as far a enrollment and players," he said. "I'd imagine we'd be on the borderline (of Division VI and VII). We were on the borderline of the lower level of Division VI."
John F. Kennedy has been a consistent state power no matter which division it has competed in. The Eagles were in Division IV until 1994 when they moved to Division V. They remained there until dropping to Division VI in 2007. Kennedy won the 1991 Division IV state title and was runner-up in 1989 and 1992 in Division IV and 2006 in Division V.
"I think it's a good thing because it gives smaller schools a better opportunity to compete," Kennedy coach Dave Pappada said. "Every year since the early '70s the committee had always tried to improve things. It's hard to please everybody but with more participants involved enthusiasm is always good.
"Right now Kennedy is probably going to be in Division VII. Hopefully that's a good thing for us."
Trina added that Harding will make the best of the new format.
"It's a double-edged sword," he said. "People react differently to it. Some people want to see us playing the best of the best Division I schools. The reality becomes more difficult to compete against those teams with their size. We've always been a competitor and do what we need to do to compete as well as we can. Some things you control and some things you can't so we'll accept that challenge however it shakes out."