Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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The OHSAA’s decision to play all of its football playoff games on Friday nights might come back to bite them – the example of metrics and too much financial analysis running amuck with those who just want a game to go to…on Saturday night!

Somewhere behind the closed doors of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, there had to have been a meeting – a big meeting, with charts, analysis, metrics, and data showing that people are more likely to go out to football game on Friday night than any other night of the week.  “Moneyball”, to copycat from the popular baseball movie.

I’m sure of it.  That’s why they’ve done away this year with the traditional Friday/Saturday shuffle of the 2017 football playoffs, playing half the games on the Friday (I, III, V on one night, and II, IV, VI, and VII on the next), as it’s been done for years.

This was a pretty good thing – the alternate nights – for high school football fans.  No, wait.  THIS WAS A GREAT THING FOR HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FANS.  It let them see two games on the same weekend, instead of now choosing the one you want to see most on Friday night only.

The reason?  “For a few years now we have studied the possibility of moving all playoff games to Friday nights for the first four rounds,” OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Beau Rugg said when the decision was announced in June.

“Due to so many more college football games being played on Saturday nights, attendance at our Saturday playoff games has steadily declined, and more potential playoff sites have said they cannot host games on Saturdays. We now have enough playoff sites to handle all the games on one night, and the football coaches association was in support of this change, too, because teams will get to stay on their normal weekly schedule of playing on Friday night.”

Well, that sounds like a plausible explanation.  And Rugg was honest to point out that it was financially motivated.

But again, the person left out of the equation is the fan (whom they so desperately need) who enjoys seeing a good Division I game on Friday, and then travels to see a good Division IV game somewhere else on Saturday.  Could they not have left well enough alone…for the sake of the fan, for a change?

And frankly, I don’t believe that college football has a thing to do with declining attendance for the playoffs.

What I do believe is the over-saturation of the playoff process.  Yes, I really do believe that going to seven divisions – as countless others have stated in agreement – has amounted to the watering down of high school football, especially in Divisions V, VI, and VII.    Because, if you look at the overall strength in Division VII across the state this year, you wonder,  like the woman used to say in the Wendy’s commercials – “Where’s the beef?”

“That, more than any reason with college football, is why I wouldn’t travel to see a Saturday night football game this year,”  says Russ Massey, a long-time high school football, and playoff devotee’.  “If Marion Local is playing Mogadore I’d go..  But if they’re playing a first-time playoff team, not so much.”

So now fans like Massey are forced to make the inevitable decision of which division they want to see most this Friday night.  And the irony of all this is…it not only negates a better experience for the fan, but probably a more comprehensive gate for the OHSAA on Saturday.

“For years my dad and his buddies would get in a van and travel all weekend to see Hilliard Davidson on Friday, and Steubenville on Saturday,”  says Massey.  “Now, it’s a matter of being all in for one night only.  We’ll still go to a game, but one game only.  We won’t be going on back-to-back nights.  Now, you have no choice but to sit at home on Saturday and watch college football.”

For the sake of the bottom line, I hope it does work for the sake of high school football.

But people like the OHSAA need to ultimately consider…that the goose with the golden egg are those fans who want more, and better, choice for how they spend their football weekend.  No goose, no egg.

Just egg on someone’s face.

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