The expansion of the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs to 16 teams per region in the seven divisions this season was an important factor in the decisions of both conferences.
Fairfield Athletic Director Aaron Blankenship, the GMC President this school year, said a “vast majority” of GMC members favored a nine-game conference schedule.
A vote total was not announced.
“I think for us obviously the expansion of the playoffs has definitely changed things for our league,” Blankenship told our news partner, WCPO.com.”We’ve got a league that has a lot of great programs that really can struggle to find non-conference games. So that’s a portion of it. But, I really think the main reason was the expanded playoffs, and it gives us an opportunity to have a true champion for the first time ever. Every team will have a chance to play everyone throughout the regular season.”
Nine GMC schools (including Fairfield, Hamilton, Lakota East, Lakota West and Mason) are in Division I, Region 4, where 16 of the 17 eligible programs overall are set to make the playoffs this year. Middletown is in Division I, Region 2 and is one of 18 teams overall in that region.
While the computer playoff points, also known as Harbin points, are important for playoff seeding, it’s not as relevant for making the postseason as in past years due to the volume of teams able to clinch a postseason berth.
“When looking at the current landscape of high school football, whether that is other conference decisions, the playoff structure, or simply placing GMC schools in the best position to be successful, moving to nine games made the most sense,” Oak Hills Athletic Director Ben Hageman said.
GMC schools will have Week 1 as their non-conference game starting with the 2022 season.
There are 10 weeks in an Ohio high school football regular season.
“Being a member of the Greater Miami Conference is both a privilege and an honor,” Lakota East Athletic Director Rich Bryant said. “Our ability to adjust and adapt to the ever-changing landscape that is high school football is a true strength of the GMC.”
The GMC has had an eight-game conference schedule since 2017 except for the shortened 2020 regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rivalry games within the GMC will be played every year instead of a rotational basis for some of those contests.
Lakota East-Lakota West, Hamilton-Fairfield, Sycamore-Mason and Princeton-Middletown are among the rivalry games over the years.
“All these rivalry games can happen every year,” Blankenship said. “So it’s great for our communities and great for our fans to have that opportunity.”
Middletown Athletic Director JD Foust did not favor the vote but said he looked at the bigger picture for the GMC.
“We would prefer the first two weeks as non-league,” Foust said. “We understand that this is for the betterment of the conference as a whole.”
While the GMC and ECC only have Week 1 to schedule for a non-conference opponent, local scheduling options become narrower for the Greater Catholic League South division, Southwest Ohio Conference and Greater Western Ohio Conference looking for non-conference games.