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Published: Monday, 4/16/2012

OHSAA’s playoff fix a good step

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Idle thoughts from an idle mind, wondering how many fans will show up for Ohio State’s spring football game on Saturday. Maybe triple the 25,000 that Michigan announced this past weekend?

  • The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced last week that it will add a seventh division to its football playoffs starting in the fall of 2013. It will bring another 32 schools into the mix, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the move is more to adjust the enrollment imbalance in the Division I ranks.

Under the new format, only the largest 10 percent of Ohio high schools will be slotted in the big-school division, meaning that no school with fewer than 600 males on the rolls should have to compete in Division I football.

Currently, the male enrollment divide among D-I schools stretches from 494 to 1,164. By comparison, Division V schools include those with enrollments of between 120 and 171 boys. Quite a difference, eh?

It is true that divisions have been set primarily to ensure a fairly equal number in each category, and there are far more smaller schools than there are large. But the Division I imbalance had grown unwieldy, and it established some big-school playoff pairings that were simply unfair.

“Adding a seventh division not only helps address the enrollment disparity in Division I, but it also will create 32 more tournament opportunities for student-athletes, their schools, and their communities, many of which have never or rarely experienced the playoffs,” said OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross.

The more the better, considering all teams qualify for postseason play in most other sports.

This will be the first alteration in the state grid playoffs since 1999, when all divisions expanded from 16 to 32 teams. The change will be made for the 2013 season because that school year represents the next two-year enrollment cycle on which divisional assignments are based.

This playoff expansion doesn’t solve the competitive imbalance that OHSAA schools have been squabbling over for some time now — another vote on that is due next month — but it’s a start.

  • Old friend Rex Wilsen, an ex-Toledoan and one-time tour golfer, says Masters champion Bubba Watson is “an everyday golfer taking it to a new level.”

He calls Watson a hands/feel player while the vast majority of tour pros are torso-oriented, using their arms and hands simply as connectors to the club.

“The feet tell the story,” Wilsen said. “Most guys, the feet don’t move. They’re locked [at address] and the torque and recoil is what generates clubhead speed. Bubba’s feet are all over the place. He looks like a ballet dancer. It’s a must because he has to change the arc to get his left hand in position to slap at the ball and manipulate it on nearly every swing. That’s why the toughest shot for him is a straight shot.

“The shot he hit out of the woods on the second playoff hole? You could give most tour players a whole bucket of balls from there and they’d never hit one on the green.”

Wilsen thinks Watson is the best hands player since Chi Chi Rodriguez.

  • Speaking of the Masters, more than 50 pro golfers responded to a Sports Illustrated survey, and one question asked which major they’d most like to win. The breakdown was interesting — 50 percent Masters, 25 percent British Open, 23 percent U.S. Open, and 2 percent PGA Championship. Strength of field would most often be in reverse order.
  • Tip of the hat to my pal Larry Alter, who was inducted Saturday into the Hancock County Sports Hall of Fame. Larry has been sports editor of the Findlay Courier for four decades. Well-deserved and overdue. How can it be that there is not a Lucas County/Toledo Sports Hall of Fame?

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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