COLUMBUS – Stark County and Columbus both made strong bids to host future Ohio high school football championships. A decision by the Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors Wednesday turned that race into a dead heat.
During a special conference call meeting, the OHSAA Board of Directors voted to award both Stark County and Columbus the opportunity to host the state football finals for two years beginning with the 2012 season. The decision was based on a recommendation from an 11-person state football finals subcommittee.
Stark County has hosted all or portions of the finals for the past 20 years, using both Canton Fawcett Stadium and Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium to play championship games in the six playoff divisions over two days. Stark County has two years remaining on the current contract to host the finals, and has been awarded the state championship games for 2012 and 2013.
Columbus will host the finals in 2014 and 2015, staging all six finals at Ohio Stadium on the Ohio State University campus, also over a two-day format.
As part of the motion to approve the recommendation, the Board also gave itself the opportunity to discuss option years for hosting the state finals in the future.
Cincinnati, Akron/Akron and Kent State, Bowling Green and Toledo also submitted proposals to host the state finals. According to Wednesday’s announcement from the OHSAA, on April 26 the finals subcommittee heard in-person presentations from all but the Bowling Green and Toledo groups. After the potential host sites were trimmed to Stark County and Columbus, members of the subcommittee visited the facilities in Canton and Massillon on June 2 and Columbus on June 8.
The subcommittee was comprised of three OHSAA Board of Directors members, five OHSAA administrative staff members and three officers from the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association.
"When we narrowed down our choices to the final two groups, the subcommittee felt that there was no question that both would do an outstanding job in hosting the championships and that both had a lot to offer," said OHSAA Commissioner Daniel B. Ross, Ph.D., a member of the subcommittee.
"We feel like using both locations will give us the best of both worlds and that the real winners will be our participating schools and their fans."
The football playoff system used to determine state champions began with three divisions in 1972. The finals that year were held at three separate sites, Class AAA at the Akron Rubber Bowl, AA at Massillon Paul Brown Stadium, and A at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Akron (AAA), Dayton (AA) and Upper Arlington (A) hosted finals in 1974, but all three championships were moved to Akron from 1975-77. Dayton Welcome Stadium hosted the finals in 1978, but they were moved back to Akron the following year.
When Ohio switched from three classes to five divisions in 1980, the state finals were divvied up among five cities across the state. Beginning in 1983, the championships were moved to Ohio State, and Ohio Stadium hosted the finals through 1989. The state football championships returned to Stark County in 1990, and the Fawcett Stadium and Paul Brown Stadium have hosted the finals since.
Of the 190 total state football finals held in the 38-year history of the tournament, Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium has hosted the most title games (79), Canton’s Fawcett Stadium is second with 38 and Ohio Stadium is third with 37.
OHSAA State Football Finals
DEC. 3-4— Canton Fawcett Stadium and Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium
DEC. 2-3— Canton Fawcett Stadium and Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium
NOV. 30-DEC. 1— Canton Fawcett Stadium and Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium
DEC. 6-7— Canton Fawcett Stadium and Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium
DEC. 5-6— Ohio Stadium, Columbus
DEC. 4-5— Ohio Stadium, Columbus