After The Whistle
By Eric Frantz
Surveys, Comments indicate more football changes warranted – and wanted
Don’t call it Spring Football. Call it common sense. And if we’re calling it like we see it – call it a need for increased communication.
Ohio High School Football has been a hot topic this spring. That happens when Ohio State’s Urban Meyer speaks out about it. And the OHSAA passes new rules to govern it.
*Starting next season Ohio HS football games will be played with the NFHS mercy rule in place, meaning any game with a 30-point or more margin in the second half will result in a running clock.
*Competitive Balance, which passed after a fourth attempt, will begin in 2016. A pilot program is scheduled for 2015.
*The State Football Championship Games return to Columbus this season for the first time since 1989 and will be played at Ohio Stadium. Stark County had hosted the event for the last 24 years. Of note, last year a book of tickets for all seven games could be purchased for $52.50. This year that same booklet costs $105. Double.
*The second year of the new seven-division state final system will be in play with games Thursday, Friday and Saturday as well.
With those changes coming, both the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association (OHSFCA) and JJHuddle recently sent surveys to every head football coach in Ohio.
From the responses generated by both (and the results of a special May 12th meeting at the OHSAA that involved commissioner Dr. Dan Ross, Meyer and OHSFCA president Mike Pavlansky among others) here’s what we also know…
The OHSFCA did not initiate any of the recent changes. None.
“Our level of involvement is up to interpretation,” Pavlansky said via email, adding that, “The OHSFCA wants to be involved in any and all discussions that will help improve the game of football in Ohio.”
As it should be. The OHSFCA is here to promote its memberships wishes, not campaigns pushed by others.
Discussions require communication, and that, however, is a key ingredient there doesn’t seem to be enough of. Our JJHuddle coaches survey produced results that blamed everyone but Obama. Some coaches didn’t believe in the OHSFCA. Other coaches don’t trust the OHSAA. The fact is, the recent passage of these new football adjustments has caught quite a few without their head on a swivel.
“I don’t think they (OHSAA) have talked to the coaches enough to understand what we want,” one Ohio HS coach said. “I know they work with the OHSFCA, but I don’t necessarily agree with them either. They don’t consult with us. I have been on the board and it was strictly my opinion, not the opinion of the population that I was representing. I don’t think there has been enough communication with the coaches.”
Said Pavlansky: “I believe that the Officers and Regional Directors of the OHSFCA do a great job of informing our members of any potential changes coming our way. We also understand that getting 100-percent approval for any course of action is not realistic. We are in agreement that moving forward the communication between the OHSAA and the OHSFCA must improve.”
So too, must offseason options for Ohio HS football players.
One topic not broached above is Spring Football. We’ll dissect it here.
First off, Spring Football as most everyone understands it – full pads, full contact, limited days – does not have a future in Ohio (at least right now). The OHSAA has nixed it vehemently. The OHSFCA does not want it either.
Instead, what the OHSFCA wants is a more than reasonable solution.
Currently in Ohio, coaches in all sports are allowed to instruct as many as four players at a time out of season. That’s great for a 10-man basketball team. Not so much for a 77-man football roster.
What Pavlansky, the head coach at Canfield, and OHSFCA members want is an exception to that rule. They want to be able to work with an unlimited number of kids at once. These kids could wear helmets. And use hand held bags. And cones.
The rationale? The OHSFCA fears that football could become overwhelmed by AAU and club sport influences like basketball, baseball and soccer has. They fear handlers and coaches not associated with school districts could become more important than the varsity football coach.
It’s a legit concern.
“We believe that an athlete and his family should not have to go to an outside source to help them improve their techniques during the off season,” Pavlansky said. “One point of major emphasis is that this is NOT spring football.”
The overriding urge here is that Ohio football coaches want something done in some capacity.
According to Pavlansky, the OHSFCA’s survey indicated that 83-percent of Ohio’s coaches are in favor of working with an unlimited number of players in the off-season.
Our JJHuddle survey indicated that 68-percent of Ohio’s coaches were in favor of some form of spring football.
Said Pavlansky: “The OHSFCA does not believe four players at a time is adequate for the sport of football.”
The OHSFCA is not alone.
“Coach Meyer was (at the meeting May 12th),” Pavlansky said. “He has been very supportive of our association and ideas.”
Meyer has a son who will play football at Watterson High School in Columbus this fall. The Buckeye head coach has more than just the future of potential in-state prospects riding on decisions made affecting Ohio HS football. Now it’s personal too.
These days, there’s growing concern as to who is making the decisions, why and based on what.
Again, here’s what we know…
There needs to be more accountability and communication on all ends.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but the power that (the OHSAA has) thrown around recently has left the OHSFCA scratching its head,” an Ohio HS coach said. “It’s unfortunate when those who never interact with our young people make the decisions that affect them so much. That being said, when you are a part of an association, you have to do what they say.
“I am a young head football coach. Times are going to change like never before. That being said, I am getting remorseful when all these ‘suits’ (many of whom are already retired public school administrators) make decisions that they won’t have to live with. People of my generation will.”
A decision also needs to be made to create an exception for football so Ohio High School football coaches can coach Ohio High School football players – during the season and when its over.
“It is the OHSFCA’s belief that the (high school) Head Coach should be involved in the recruiting (and development) of his player,” Pavlansky said. “We are very concerned that if we are not allowed to develop the skills of our athletes (in the offseason), what has happened in other sports (Basketball, Volleyball, etc.) will happen to football.”