With all the talk about expanding the College Football Playoff to 12 teams and the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s plan to double the number of teams in its high school football playoffs this year, there is one thing which has not been discussed much at all.
How many games should college and high school football players be asked to play? How much is too much?
The 12-team college playoff being discussed could mean a team might play 17 games to win a national championship.
This year’s OHSAA state champions will play 16 games and start their seasons a week earlier than last year.
Injuries are unavoidable in football. But even players who aren’t sidelined by injuries and are able to play every game, week after week, pay a price physically. And the higher the level of competition, the higher the price.
Here’s how Coldwater’s Ross Homan, who loved football and was very good at it, said he felt the morning after making 15 tackles, including two sacks, during Ohio State’s 31-13 win over Wisconsin in 2009:
“It feels like somebody took a baseball bat to your legs and your whole body,” Homan said. “You wake up and you’re hardly able to walk to the bathroom. You feel like an 80-year-old man.”
That was game six in a 13-game season, which ended with a Rose Bowl win over Oregon two years before the first Big Ten championship game.
How many people do you know who would sign up to let somebody take batting practice on their shins even once, much less 16 or 17 times?
Expanded playoffs at the college level and the high school level are, of course, driven by money.
One estimate says the value of the College Football Playoff would more than triple to $2 billion by going to 12 teams instead of four.
And increasing the number of playoff games is one of the ways the OHSAA is trying to recover from the hole left in its budget by the cancelation of the winter state tournaments and all spring sports in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. All the money for playoff games goes to the OHSAA.
The term “money grab” has been applied frequently at both the college and high school level.
The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association has been one of the biggest critics of the OHSAA’s expanded playoffs, which might be the first time I can remember Ohio’s high school football coaches being opposed to getting more teams in the playoffs.
The football coaches association, which has in the past petitioned the OHSAA to consider things like allowing spring football practices, proposed adding 12 teams per region to the playoff. But after approving that idea the OHSAA decided to add 16 teams per region instead, which made the coaches unhappy.
Is there a maximum number of football games an athlete should be asked to play? It’s a question that seems like it deserves more attention but so far hasn’t been a big part of the discussion.
By Jim Naveau