FROM SVC TO FEDERAL? Fitch explores options
Boardman is also considering the move; the schools' interest still doesn't mean they will leave the SVC.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- Austintown Fitch High athletic director Dick Kenney knows that no matter what the school board decides about league affiliation, someone will be unhappy.
Fitch is expected to send a formal letter of application for admittance to the Federal League sometime this month.
"We're being cautious," Kenney said. "No matter what we say it will be construed as something negative about the Steel Valley. That's not the case. Like I've said all along, we have an obligation to explore our opportunities and see if they're in our best interest."
Topic of discussion: The Austintown Board of Education will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the issue. Fitch and Boardman are charter members of the SVC, which includes Warren Harding, Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney.
Boardman is also considering joining the Federal, although the school is still in the exploration stage, high school principal Louis Rucci said.
"The Federal League is looking at its options just as we are," Rucci said. "A decision like this requires a lot of thought. We've been in the SVC for 51 years and when you change leagues, it's for the long haul. You have to consider the long-term effects of the decision."
Boardman is keeping in touch with the SVC teams during the decision-making process, Rucci said.
Massillon Washington and Canton McKinley have also been mentioned as possible candidates to join the seven-member league, which will lose Wooster and Alliance in the next two years. If Fitch and Boardman were to join, Uniontown Lake, the league's smallest remaining school, would likely explore other league options.
Massillon Jackson, Massillon Perry, North Canton Hoover and Canton GlenOak are also in the Federal.
Motive: The letter does not mean that Fitch will leave the SVC, only that school officials are interested in having "serious discussion," Kenney said.
"There's a lot of concerns and issues that haven't been ironed out," he said. " I don't think we're prepared to say 'Yes, we want to join.' There are some reservations from everyone involved."
Fitch has polled the school's coaches and administrators for feedback about the move. Boardman has not yet reached that stage. The biggest obstacle to joining is the distance between the schools, although Fitch and Boardman play Federal League schools in their non-league schedule.
"Their schools are similar to ours in a lot of ways and we have a very good relationship with them," Rucci said.
Federal League officials last met on Jan. 16 and have declined comment since the meeting. Federal League superintendents could vote on possible expansion candidates as early as April.
Rucci and Kenney both stressed that just because their schools have expressed interest does not mean that they will leave the SVC, or that they would necessarily be accepted to the Federal League.
Community reaction: Kenney has received a lot of feedback about the possible move and said there is no consensus about the decision.
"Some people are saying we should have left years ago and some are saying we're afraid [to leave] because we're not winning right now," Kenney said. "I would say that anybody who is a fan or is interested in athletics needs to look past football and basketball. We have 60 athletic teams [varsity and non-varsity] so there's a lot more teams to be considered."