The Greater Miami Conference voted Monday to approve a nine-game conference football schedule starting with the 2022 season.
The decision by the 10-member conference arrives less than a week after the Eastern Cincinnati Conference announced Sept. 10 it has adopted a nine-game conference football schedule starting in 2022.
The expansion of the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs to 16 teams per region in the seven divisions this season was an important factor in the decisions of both conferences.
Fairfield athletic director Aaron Blankenship, the GMC president this school year, said a "vast majority" of GMC members favored a nine-game conference schedule.
A vote total was not announced.
"I think for us obviously the expansion of the playoffs has definitely changed things for our league," Blankenship said."We've got a league that has a lot of great programs that really can struggle to find non-conference games. So that's a portion of it. But, I really think the main reason was the expanded playoffs, and it gives us an opportunity to have a true champion for the first time ever. Every team will have a chance to play everyone throughout the regular season."
Nine GMC schools are in Division I, Region 4, where 16 of the 17 eligible programs overall are set to make the playoffs this year. Middletown is in Division I, Region 2 and is one of 18 teams overall in that region.
While the computer playoff points, also known as Harbin points, are important for playoff seeding, it's not as relevant for making the postseason as in past years due to the volume of teams able to clinch a postseason berth.
"When looking at the current landscape of high school football, whether that is other conference decisions, the playoff structure, or simply placing GMC schools in the best position to be successful, moving to nine games made the most sense," Oak Hills athletic director Ben Hageman said.
GMC schools will have Week 1 as their non-conference game starting with the 2022 season.
There are 10 weeks in an Ohio high school football regular season.
"Being a member of the Greater Miami Conference is both a privilege and an honor," Lakota East athletic director Rich Bryant said. "Our ability to adjust and adapt to the ever-changing landscape that is high school football is a true strength of the GMC."
The GMC has had an eight-game conference schedule since 2017 except for the shortened 2020 regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rivalry games within the GMC will be played every year instead of a rotational basis for some of those contests.
Lakota East versus Lakota West, Hamilton versus Fairfield, and Sycamore versus Mason and Princeton versus Middletown are among the rivalry games over the years.
"All these rivalry games can happen every year," Blankenship said. "So it's great for our communities and great for our fans to have that opportunity."
Middletown athletic director JD Foust did not favor the vote but said he looked at the bigger picture for the GMC.
"We would prefer the first two weeks as non-league," Foust said. "We understand that this is for the betterment of the conference as a whole."
While the GMC and ECC only have Week 1 to schedule for a non-conference opponent, local scheduling options become narrower for the Greater Catholic League South division, Southwest Ohio Conference and Greater Western Ohio Conference looking for non-conference games.
St. Xavier and Colerain have a contract for a game at St. X in Week 2 of the 2022 season, concluding a two-year deal.
St. Xavier and Colerain played in the regular season from 2008 to 2009, 2011 to 2019 and again in Week 2 this season. (The teams did not meet in the regular season in 2020 due to the shortened schedule during the pandemic).
"It's unfortunate that some traditional rivalries aren't going to take place given the new schedule arrangement within the GMC," St. X athletic director Brian Reinhart said. "It makes scheduling more difficult but also opens up weeks for some new opportunities and rivalries."
Colerain athletic director Matt Stoinoff said he likes the GMC's decision and how it benefits the conference overall, including a true league champion.
Stoinoff said Colerain and St. X have always had a good rapport and he looks forward to continue working with Reinhart regarding the game contract.
"The unfortunate part is the relationship that we have with St. X and playing all the way back to 2010 and losing that," Stoinoff said. "That's always a big game for both of us and it's an exciting game as a true rivalry and what not. So losing that will be upsetting. But, it's a conference decision and so we support our conference on everything that they make."