Area coaches like football’s seventh division

If you think the recent addition of a seventh division to the Ohio High School Athletic Association football hierarchy is a good thing, you’re just like most Mahoning Valley coaches.

“It just gives more teams a chance to compete for a state title,” Brookfield coach Randy Clark said.

“Some of the bigger schools that were overshadowed in Division I can get more exposure in a lower division,” Youngstown Christian coach Brian Marrow said.

“You can go 6-4, or even 5-5, and get in the playoffs now,” said Western Reserve coach Andy Hake. “More teams will definitely feel like they have a chance.”

But if you think seven divisions is just too many, well, don’t move to New Jersey.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association divides its schools into five sections: North 1, North 2, Central, South and Non-Public. Within those sections, there are four or five groups. In all, 24 teams will be crowned a state champion.


One thing worth adapting from The Garden State could be its new legislation for high school athletics that bans “bullying and trash-talking” from prep competitions. Caught running your mouth and you’ll be suspended for up to three games. I’m sure more than a few readers can think of a few players or coaches that could use a seat on the bench for this violation.

But that’s a column for another day.

I’m sure you noticed the mention of a non-public football division in New Jersey.

That, too, is a column for another day. Actually, it’s better that we don’t touch on that topic at all.

Let’s look at our neighboring states for another look at football divisional breakdowns.

West Virginia, with just 103 football-playing schools, has three divisions (A, AA and AAA). Pennsylvania is a bit more complicated.

There are 12 districts in The Keystone State, but just over the border from us, Western Pennsylvania is in a league of its own. Nine counties make up the WPIAL, which names four champions. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association crowns four champions, too, but with more than 800 football-playing schools winning at Heinz Field is just as honorable as winning in Hershey Park for schools in the nine-county WPIAL.

The “new” Division I in Ohio has just 72 schools with male enrollments of 608 or more. In Texas, another state where high school football is king, there are major disparities in its highest division.

Class 5A’s largest school (Alief Hastings) has an enrollment of 4,979. The smallest 5A school in Texas is Laredo Cigarroa with just 1,400 students – a difference of more than 3,500. In Ohio, just nine schools have a male enrollment of more than 1,000.

Basically, believe it or not, we’re in pretty good shape here. Even with a change, the OHSAA has things organized and easy to understand. For a state that’s 34th in size and seventh in population, Ohio has the third largest membership in its high school governing body.

You may not think it, but seven really is heaven for the Buckeye State.