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MX News Update 2024

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With seven-on-seven play in Ohio high schools, could spring football be next?

Editor’s note: This is the final part of a four-part series on 7-on-7 football. We’ll look at how 7-on-7 came to Ohio and how it can coexist with spring sports. The series will also look at how to keep bad seeds out of the game and whether or not spring football is the next step.

If progress follows the format seen in other states, spring football could be next in Ohio.

Ten years ago, the Buckeye State was one of 34 states that did not allow spring football as it exists today.

Fast forward to the present and there aren’t many associations that don’t wear pigskin in April, May and June.

Here in Ohio, weather, finances and facilities all factor into the decision, as does the consideration of not hurting spring sports.

“It’s not like we can play baseball in February and get it over with in time for spring football,” OHSAA football manager Beau Rugg said. “That’s what’s happening in the southern states. Therefore, they are not in conflict. We don’t have it again. With that in mind, everyone now, today, agrees that that is not wise.

“Will that change? Who knows? I do not think so. Just because at least with our membership, you have to realize we have 819 schools, there’s only a small percentage of football schools that want spring training to take people to the next level. It would be very difficult to change that. I think the people who don’t push and are on the same page – important, powerful people, but also our membership and where we live now – I don’t see it changing, but I’ve been wrong before.

7-on-7 football part 1: Northeast Ohio high school football was instrumental in bringing 7-on-7 to spring sports

7-on-7 football part 2: With 7-on-7 football now on the spring landscape, what impact will spring sports have?

7-on-7 football part 3: In the spring there is 7-on-7 football; How do schools keep the bad parts out?

Climate plays a factor in spring football when it comes to other states

What Rugg is saying is that in states like Texas, California, Florida and Georgia, the spring season starts so much earlier, leaving more room for spring football later in the school year.

The high school baseball season in Florida is in full swing in mid-February and ends in mid-May. Last season, the OHSAA baseball season ended on June 10.

Spring football started April 29 in Florida this year and will allow for 20 sessions, including five mandatory days without helmets or pads, through the end of May.

By comparison, Ohio can hold 13 full team practices from May 15 through July 31.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that in the South, they start playing their spring sports in January because they can,” said Tim Stried, OHSAA director of media relations. “There are a lot of southern states that hold their spring state championships early. That opens up spring football.”

COVID showed that spring football can work in Ohio

That’s not to say it can’t work in Ohio, and the 2020 COVID season proved that.

Some parts of the state lost football in the fall due to the pandemic, and the OHSAA allowed spring football in certain cases.

Cleveland public schools were among those affected.

“The freshmen this happened to will be seniors now,” said Glenville football coach Ted Ginn Sr., who is also the Tarblooders’ track coach. “It happened to us, Lorain, and I think Cleveland Central is Catholic. They let us play spring football, and what happened next? We won back-to-back state championships because I was able to coach and develop the kids without a fall season, so that’s the benefit of spring football. It did not hinder the track. I think I was done in April.”

Is the lack of spring football hurting Ohio college recruiting?

Hoban coach Tim Tyrrell, who coached Chaminade-Madonna in Florida, said the spring football season was mainly used to get college coaches on the field as a recruiting mechanism.

Texas (18 of the top 100 high school athletes according to 247Sports.com), Florida (7 five-star athletes) and Georgia (39 four-star athletes) were the cream of the crop in recruiting.

They all have spring football.

Ohio (12 four-star athletes) ranked sixth.

“I’m indifferent to it right now because I don’t think it’s going to change much here,” Nordonia coach Jeff Fox said. “I don’t have an emotional reaction to it, but do you see that there could be a domino? I think that’s the story around it. Because the other story says this kind of thing will kill the other sports. Gotcha. The facade that this would suddenly create multi-sport athletes or kill multi-sport athletes is false anyway.

GlenOak football coach Scott Garcia would prefer there was less talk about 7-on-7 and more talk about spring football.

There is no compensation for coaches in the form of stipends to teach in the offseason, so why not include spring football in the story?

“States have been doing this for 20 to 30 years,” he said. “I’d rather see spring football where you can actually practice with your entire team, rather than bringing in seven guys somewhere. It doesn’t do your team much good to have such a small personal percentage.

But if you could open up and have some practices, maybe three times a week for three weeks or whatever, maybe get some extra time that way, it would benefit the team because everyone involved.”

Collaboration would be the key to spring football in Ohio

The key, like everywhere else, is collaboration.

If spring football ever becomes a thing, everyone involved needs to play nice.

“I think it takes a lot of coordination and a lot of negotiation between coaches,” said Wadsworth track coach Chris Beery, who is also a first-year football coach. “How much are the spring coaches willing to sacrifice to keep the kids on their teams, and how much are the football coaches going to demand from the kids?

‘I think in the end it’s about the child. How much does a child want to play baseball? How much does a child want athletics? And sometimes it’s hard for a 15, 16, 17 year old kid to make the decision to give up a spring sport and play football all year long. I think it puts a lot of pressure on kids to pick and choose, and hopefully the adults can create a situation where they don’t have to make that decision.

“Hopefully we don’t put them in a situation where they regret not getting everything out of the high school experience that they maybe could have.”

Contact Brad Bournival at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bbournival