CINCINNATI — The Eastern Cincinnati Conference announced Friday morning the adoption of a nine-game conference football schedule starting with the 2022 season.
The ECC athletic directors voted 8-2 Thursday in favor of the move.
The 2022 season would have just one non-conference game possibility for ECC members in the first week of the year. There are 10 weeks in an Ohio high school football regular season.
"The nine-game league schedule makes sense for our conference," West Clermont athletic director James Collins said.
"The determining factor was the expanded OHSAA playoff format. With more teams getting into the playoffs, it was the perfect time for the ECC to have a true league champion. Everyone in the league gets to play every team, every year. In the long term now, rivals will not take a two-year break in the scheduling format. We felt like it was a win - win for our league and fixed the scheduling problem for years to come."
The ECC is in its first full season of an eight-game conference schedule since it added Lebanon, Winton Woods and Little Miami starting in the fall 2020. (The COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 regular season across the state with Kings and Winton Woods named ECC co-champions).
The ECC said conference football games will occur in weeks 2-10 starting in 2022. Each school's conference scrimmage will become the Week 2 contest.
"It's great for our conference," Winton Woods athletic director David Lumpkin said. "I think you are going to see probably other leagues as well. We're not the only league to consider this. It's getting tougher and tougher to schedule and it leaves us with a true champion without having a bye every year."
The expansion of the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs to 16 teams per region in the seven divisions also played a factor in the ECC's decision.
In Division I, Region 4, 16 of the 17 eligible programs will make the playoffs this year.
While the computer playoff points, also known as Harbin points, earned are important for playoff seeding, it's not as relevant for making the postseason as in past years.
"Looking at the structure, I think everyone realizes things are evolving and we have to evolve and change with it," Milford athletic director Aaron Zupka said. "I think it was a pretty easy decision. It was just timing of when to do it."
Lebanon athletic director Keith Pantling said the move to nine ECC games is very beneficial for the communities and for Lebanon to continue to establish new rivalries.
Pantling and Zupka recognized the change locally for the football scheduling landscape where rivalries outside the conference will change during the regular season.
"It's getting tougher for smaller conferences and further diminishes the chances of more local private school-public school matchups," said Pantling, who was the La Salle athletic director from 2016 to 2018. "I've been in both chairs."
The ECC, which started in 2012, includes Kings, Turpin, Anderson, Milford, West Clermont, Little Miami, Walnut Hills, Winton Woods, Lebanon and Loveland.
The Greater Miami Conference discussed a nine-game conference schedule at its Sept. 7 meeting and plans to revisit the discussion no later than the October meeting, but it could happen sooner.