COLUMBUS, Ohio — Football teams will have a better chance to make the playoffs in 2021.

During its meeting Wednesday, the OHSAA Board of Directors unanimously voted to expand the football playoffs from eight schools per region to 12 beginning with the 2021 season.

“We still have details to work out regarding the format and specific season dates, but this vote by the Board gives us the green light to finalize those details for 2020,” Beau Rugg, Senior Director of Officiating for Sport Management for the OHSAA and the association’s football administrator said in a release. “We are thankful for the Board’s support on this proposal, which will bring all the great things of playoff football to 112 additional schools and communities.”

The recommendation to expand the playoffs, which was based on a proposal from the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, was approved 9-0.

“I’m a huge fan of it,” Fort Recovery High School athletics director and football coach Brent Niekamp said this morning. “I’m very supportive of it. The fact that football postseason was tied to regular-season record in wins and losses, that affects schedules and those non-conference games.

“Over the years, it’s affecting conference shifting and realigning.”

Under the expansion, which will increase the number of qualifiers to 336 teams from 224, the top four seeds in each region will receive a bye. The tournament format will be as follows:

•No. 5 seed hosts No. 12 seed — winner plays No. 4 seed in second round.

•No. 6 seed hosts No. 11 seed — winner plays No. 3 seed in second round.

•No. 7 seed hosts No. 10 seed — winner plays No. 2 seed in second round.

•No. 8 seed hosts No. 9 seed — winner plays No. 1 seed in second round.

The higher-seeded teams will have the opportunity to host their playoff games during the first and second round of the playoffs.

While Niekamp would prefer a system that didn’t grant teams a bye, he sees the expansion as a positive for the state.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “The past few years, we’ve driven past a lot of schools that are close to us to play somebody that is an hour or two hours away. A lot of teams in (the Midwest Athletic Conference) have that issue.”

The OHSAA football playoffs began in 1972 when only four schools in each of the three divisions qualified. In 1980, it was expanded to five divisions with eight teams each for a total of 40 schools. Qualifiers were bumped up to 16 per division and a sixth division was added in 1994 (96 total qualifiers), and the field was doubled to 192 in 1999 with eight schools per region making the field." The OHSAA added a seventh division was in 2013, bringing the number to the current 224.

The 2019 season there were 709 schools in Ohio that played 11-man football, the only OHSAA team sport in which not every team qualifies for the postseason.