Ohio high school football playoffs: Moeller-Colerain not big enough draw for Paul Brown Stadium?

Or Nippert, for that matter, OHSAA says

Friday update: The Moeller-Colerain game is sold out. No tickets will be sold at the gate.

CINCINNATI – The Moeller-Colerain playoff game would not draw enough fans to merit moving it to Paul Brown Stadium or Nippert Stadium, a spokesperson for the Ohio High School Athletic Association said Wednesday.

Still, the OHSAA would have been fine with moving the game if the stadiums offered to reduce their rent or the schools, the stadiums or the county offered to cover the extra cost, Tim Stried said. But they didn’t, and he doubted the attendance would cover the added expense of playing in an NFL or college stadium.

“People think those schools (Moeller and Colerain) have 10,000 fans following them. Maybe they used to, but not anymore, unfortunately,” Stried said.

“Colerain had 2,000 at its last playoff game (at Welcome Stadium in Dayton).

“Based on the crowds following Colerain and Moeller so far in the playoffs, those numbers did not lend themselves to indicate" (they needed a bigger venue).

Ultimately, Stried said, the OHSAA needs to make money on the football playoffs and couldn’t afford to gamble that Cincinnati’s two best teams could draw a big enough crowd to cover the higher rent at PBS or Nippert.

So, when it came to picking a neutral site, the OHSAA chose Mason High School - with capacity of about 7,000 - for Saturday night’s Division I regional championship.

The OHSAA expects to bring in $50,000 from playing at Mason, Stried said, based on ticket prices of $7 and $9.

The OHSAA would only approve moving the game if it was guaranteed the same amount.

Adding operating expenses, the total cost of playing the game at PBS would have been about $100,000.

Stried acknowledged that the marquee matchup might draw casual high school football fans who don’t follow either school.

“They would need a crowd in excess of 10,000 – probably 12,000” to cover it, Stried said.  

“If the game sells out (at Mason), there’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Stried said. “It would be great to have it (at PBS). But the OHSAA wouldn’t move the game to lose money.”

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, a Colerain grad, pushed the idea of moving the game to PBS. With the Bengals in a bye week, Portune hoped to make way for a bigger crowd and give the high school teams the thrill of playing in an NFL stadium.

A playoff doubleheader at PBS in 2001 drew 47,743. The fans saw St. Xavier defeat Princeton, 6-0, and Elder beat Colerain, 35-21.

But Portune said Wednesday there wasn’t enough time to get it done.

“I think Todd Portune found out the hard way it’s a lot more expensive to play at PBS,” Stried said.

UC’s Nippert Stadium was another option, because neither the football or basketball Bearcats play on campus Saturday.

Moeller and Elder played a second-round playoff game at Nippert last week.

But Nippert wasn’t cost-effective for Moeller-Colerain, Stried said.

“Nippert’s rental fee is definitely not as high as Paul Brown Stadium, but it’s still high – much higher than Mason,” Stried said. “Through the week, they (UC) never indicated they would be open to lowering it.

“People might be clamoring for the game to move to Nippert, but they’re not paying the bills, either,” Stried said.

Portune said in a statement he wants to encourage more local events at PBS. Although Hamilton County owns the stadium, the Bengals have to sign off on any event there.

Portune thanked the Bengals for cooperating in the effort to move Moeller-Colerain to PBS.

“Our future goals include hosting OHSAA playoff games, or the state football semifinals and finals when those spots are open for bid in a few years,” Portune said.  “I am encouraging us to do all that we can to allow PBS to be an available, affordable and attractive site for all such future contests.”

In the end, it may not matter to the teams.

“We’re fine playing at Mason,” Moeller athletic director Mike Asbeck said. “These decisions are not made by us.”

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