Rumors abound in talks of loops
YOUNGSTOWN -- Depending on which county the news was coming from, we learned last week that: a) Austintown Fitch and Boardman were considering a move to the Federal League; or b) the Federal League was considering accepting the Steel Valley Conference schools.
The rumors had been circulating for weeks, ever since Alliance announced it was leaving the Stark County league following the 2002-03 school year.
For a time, it seemed Alliance was going to come East to join the Metro Athletic Conference, and while that still remains a possibility, it now doesn't seem as likely.
Then, Wooster told the Federal League it too was going to bolt to help form a new conference with Ashland and Mansfield-area schools.
Those defections will leave the Federal League, which at one time had more than 10 schools, down to five: North Canton Hoover, Massillon Perry, Massillon Jackson, Canton GlenOak and Uniontown Lake.
All of those schools, with the exception of Lake, are Division I in all sports. Lake is Div. II in football and is usually on the either side of the Div. I-II fence in basketball.
Scenarios: The rumor mills have been working overtime with all the possible scenarios.
One had Boardman and Fitch joining the Federal League, along with Massillon and Canton McKinley.
Others included Cleveland St. Ignatius.
Generally, most of these rumors were nothing more than a few folks' wish list.
The reality of the matter deals with finances -- not so much in football, especially at the varsity level, because all of the Federal schools and the two Mahoning County schools draw very well.
Drawback: However, the main drawback to Fitch and Boardman heading west concerned the non-revenue sports and the lower-level teams -- freshman and junior high.
Clearly, there are ways around this, and those would include a conference for football only.
Frankly, I can't see Boardman and Fitch athletic and administrative officials being in favor of that kind of setup. It would make a mess of scheduling the other sports and, in general, just be pretty confusing to follow.
There seems to be a general uneasiness, not only in the Valley, but around the state, regarding athletic conferences.
Changes: We're not saying that officials shouldn't explore new affiliations, but especially recently, it seems as though schools are making changes, or seeking change, simply for the sake of change.
On one hand, when the three City Series schools talked to the SVC after East High's closing, the SVC had legitimate concerns about scheduling the non-revenue and non-varsity sports.
On the other hand, though, how many times have we heard rumor of an area super conference, involving the city schools, the SVC, the Metro and the Trumbull Athletic Conference?
Frankly, I don't know what the answer is.
The idea of a super conference, in which all of the schools operate under the same bylaws, on the surface seems appealing.
But, is it what is in the best interests of the student-athletes?
That should be the first question.
Perhaps the answer for Ohio is to follow Pennsylvania's lead, where, at least in the WPIAL, league affiliation is determined by the district officials for a two-year period.
XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at email@example.com.